THE PLOT

Eliza Doolittle is a poor cockney flower seller in Convent Garden and one night she meets Professor Henry Higgins. This man is a highly regarded phonetician who bets with a Colonel friend that he can teach her to be a lady. She believes him and on the next day arrives at his house to start the lessons, never suspecting that her life will change forever. And so starts this musical adaptation of Bernard Shaw's PYGMALION


2001 National Theatre Production

 


2001 National
Theatre Production

A BIT OF HISTORY

The first production of this show opened on Broadway in 1956, starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, and became one of the biggest hits in the history of the Musical Theatre. The score by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe was (and still is) a joy to hear and several songs have a life of their own.

My first contact with it was through the George Cukor movie, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, and I felt instantly in love with the score. By that time I didn't knew that it was an adaptation of a Broadway musical, but as a movie it was highly entertaining and I saw it a few times. When later I discovered that Hepburn had been dubbed and that Julie Andrews (whom I loved for THE SOUND OF MUSIC and her television show) had been the original Eliza, I felt cheated. But there was no way I could see the original Broadway production, so I started dreaming of seeing it on stage someday.

 

THE NATIONAL THEATRE REVIVAL

Finally the chance to see it on stage arrived. An acclaimed new production opened in London and I could hardly wait to see it. So in May 2002 I went to London and I saw it. Surprise!!! The show was kind of boring and looked dated. What happened?

This musical have a terrific score and a perfect book, but Trevor Nunn's direction is heavy handed and the show kind of drags through the entire evening. The choreography by Matthew Bourne is unimaginative and looks forced, but the physical production is effective and glamorous.
The cast was mix. Alex Jennings as Prof. Henry Higgins didn't convinced me and was too irritant and serious for me to care about him. The same can be said about David Burrows (who replaced Dennis Waterman in the performance I saw) who played the role of Eliza's father. On the plus side Joanna Riding was a delightful Eliza and only when she was on stage did this revival came alive.

 

THE PORTUGUESE PRODUCTION

To have a musical done in Portugal is something very rare, but fortunately a man named Filipe Lá Féria decided to bring this classic to our (yes, I'm a Portuguese guy living in Lisbon) stages. At first I couldn't believe it would happen, then I start fearing the worst. How would Lerner's lyrics work in Portuguese? Do we have any actors here who could sing, dance and act? The answer is yes!

For my surprise I find myself having a better time than I had in London. To tell you the truth this production has simpler and less imaginative sets, the costumes are less glamorous and the lightning design is a disaster.

But Lá Féria gave the entire show a rhythm that is missing in the London Revival and the entire evening is much more fun and enjoyable than that one. Curiously even the lyrics work in Portuguese.

Lá Féria decision to use two songs from GIGI was a right one, and so "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight" (that in truth was cut from the original production) and "The Day They Invented Champagne" blend perfectly with the rest of the score. He also decided to use more dance and, although the choreography was too conventional, that helped the show.

Another thing that he did that works very well is the imaginative staging of the "You Did It" number: while Prof. Higgins tells his servants what happened at the Embassy's ball, we actually see the irritating Zoltan gossiping with the Embassy's guests.

The entire cast do their best and in the whole they help to make this production an highly enjoyable one. As Eliza, Anabela delivers a strong voice and a perfect comic timing (the Ascot sequence is a riot) and, as her father, Miguel Dias is a true revelation. As done by Carlos Quintas, Prof. Higgins has a better voice than usual and he has the right snob attitude.

This isn't by far the best musical I saw, but it's a colourful and joyful production of a great classic.

 

MY FAIR LADY

Music by Frederick Loewe

Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner

 

NATIONAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

Starring
JOANNA RIDING   ALEX JENNINGS   DAVID BURROWS
MALCOLM SINCLAIR   KATE DYSON   PETER PRENTICE   DILYS LAYE

Choreography by Matthew Bourne

Directed by Trevor Nunn

Rated by Jorge: ++

 

PORTUGUESE PRODUCTION

Starring
ANABELA   CARLOS QUINTAS   MIGUEL DIAS
JOAQUIM ROSA   LURDES NORBERTO   MANUELA MARIA   JOEL BRANCO

Directed by Filipe Lá Féria

Rated by Jorge: +++