Watching a star form before your eyes is a magical feeling. In Bartlett Sher’s revolutionary version my beautiful lady, which is set in the West End now four years after opening on Broadway, Amara Okereke is that star. As Eliza Doolittle, the 25-year-old gives one of the most riveting stage performances of the year, transforming from a chattering Cockney flower seller into a member of England’s genteel middle class under the tutelage of Professor Henry Higgins (Harry Hadden-Paton). ). The show, with its altered ending, may divide musical theater purists, but there’s no denying Okereke’s talent.
As the production opens in the damp streets of Covent Garden, we meet a loud, roaring Eliza. That why-I-should-energy dissipates as she lets herself be dreamed, light shining from her face as she sings “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in lilting soprano tones. But even as Eliza learns her Ps and Qs and gains upper-class approval, she doesn’t lose that defiant spark; her tongue sticks mischievously to the inside of her cheek.
In a production that’s focused on modernism, it’s hard to arouse sympathy for Henry Higgins – a man who calls Eliza a “barbaric wretch” and “deliciously low”. Hadden-Paton leans in, instilling a chaotic energy and a manic twinkle in Henry’s eyes. When the pair fights, they make great opponents, but make little sense as a pair. This dynamic works for the updated, potentially controversial, conclusion.
Sher makes the wise decision to play up the laughs in Alan J Lerner’s book, filling every line with sarcasm and striving for their comic potential. The ensemble morphs into broad, hilarious stereotypes, entering rooms with their noses in the air while high society rages. They deliciously overemphasize the word “here” while singing, “Anybody who’s supposed to be hee-yuh is hee-yuh” on “Ascot Gavotte”.
This comedic bent is most evident in the casting of Stephen K. Amos as Eliza’s alcoholic father, Alfred P. Doolittle. Is Amos the world’s greatest singer or dancer? no However, his drunk uncle-at-a-wedding energy only adds to Alfred’s pathetic character. In the more challenging Get Me to the Church on Time, Amos is almost drowned out by the swirling hurricane of can-can dancers and drag performers.
You can really smell the money in these group numbers my beautiful lady. Catherine Zuber’s costumes are intricately designed, luxurious fabrics that trail across the floor while jewels glitter so brightly they could be seen from space. At one point, Mrs. Higgins’ (Vanessa Redgrave) entire face is completely covered by a particularly large hat. It’s an unfortunate case of bad blocking, but reducing Redgrave’s stage time feels outrageous considering her role is already small.
Similar details were put into the set design, particularly Professor Higgins’ revolving house with its rich mahogany furniture and spiral staircase. The outside world is far less ostentatious in comparison, the dank streets of Covent Garden and Alfred’s Pub an oddly cheap-looking morning drama. But even that is not enough to distract from the spectacle my beautiful ladya hypnotic show that will keep you immersed in Eliza’s captivating world with an unmissable performance.
My Fair Lady runs at the Coliseum Theater until August 27th
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/reviews/my-fair-lady-review-colisem-amara-okereke-b2082781.html My Fair Lady review: Amara Okereke shines as Eliza Doolittle in Bartlett Sher’s glossy musical