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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

My Fair Lady.

19th DECEMBER, THE CRUCIBLE. Daniel Evans stepped up once again this Christmas to direct a rousing, vibrant version of My Fair Lady at the Crucible. Adapted from George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, the musical is one of the finest rags to riches stories out there and has been imitated and mimicked for decades since its creation. The theatre is not typical for a musical, lacking the long stages of Broadway or the West End, but Evans and his team have created a play which looks terrific and feels immersive, dragging you dancing and laughing into the very heart of the production. The play starts leisurely, with a couple of numbers that almost feel like warm-ups for what's to come. However, once the central premise has been set up, the production gathers pace to deliver scene upon scene of impossible-to-keep-a-smile-off-your-face musical numbers. Martyn Ellis shines as Doolittle, playing him as essentially Harry Redknapp with a passion for singing. 'With A Little Bit of Luck' shifts the play into top gear and his ensemble assisted performance of 'Get Me to the Church on Time' brings down the house. The show is peppered with a level of performance which is now typical of any Evans production, but alongside Ellis it is the two main leads that deserve the most credit for creating such a wonderful evening of entertainment. I last saw Dominic West in this theatre for Othello and thought his performances was uneven. I can level no such criticism here. He is tailor-made for comedy and bounds around the stage with youthful abandon. He's far from the strongest singer here, but that doesn't matter. Indeed, he manages to speak-sing a lot of his verse in a style that matches perfectly with the character he's playing. Professor Higgins is an obtuse, arrogant, pompous arse who is both stubborn and uniquely charming. West, born in Yorkshire and bred in Eaton, ticks every box. The standout performer of this production is his co-star Carly Bawden. Her Eliza Doolittle is impossibly likeable, and she achieves the unlikely task of progressing up the class barriers and somehow becoming even more adorable with it. Bawden lights up the stage whenever she is on, even during a scene where she melds into the background with a sombre poignancy. Her rendition of 'I Could Have Danced All Night' is a marvellous moment at the heart of the play and she succeeds fully in inviting the audience to root for her at every step of her journey. This is not a singalong musical in the style of Lloyd Webber, but the play deserves praise for the way it makes the songs central to both the plot and the action. Some musicals can make you feel like you're just being sung to, but this production hits the right notes on too many occasions for it to be coincidental. The cast talk, act, dance, laugh and sing with passion and realism. The result is a brilliant play and a brilliant musical. Photo by Johan Persson. )

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