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NT Lyttelton Theatre: Previewed 6 March, Opened 15 March 2001, Closed 30 June 2001, transferred
Drury Lane Theatre Royal: Opened 21 July 2001, Closed 30 August 2003
Musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe adapted from Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture. Directed by Trevor Nunn with choreography by Matthew Bourne, designs by Anthony Ward and lighting by David Hersey. Orchestrations by William D Brohn with dance arrangements by Chris Walker and musical supervision by David White. Music Director Nick Davies and Assistant Music Director David Shrubsole. Sound Designed by Paul Groothuis.
Lerner and Loewe's multi-award winning musical became one of the greatest successes of the New York and London stages, and paved the way for the hugely popular film version in 1964.
Henry Higgins, an opinionated linguistics professor and confirmed bachelor, makes a wager with a colleague that within six months he can transform a cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, into a lady who can take her place in high society. He wins the bet, but doesn't bargain for the profound effect she has on his life.
The score is brimming with great songs, including 'I Could Have Danced All Night', 'The Rain in Spain', 'Wouldn't it be Loverly' and 'I'm Getting Married in the Morning'.
Cast (as of 10 March 2003): Anthony Andrews as 'Professor Higgins', Laura Michelle Kelly 'Eliza Doolittle', Russ Abbot 'Alfred P Doolittle', Stephen Moore 'Colonel Pickering', Hannah Gordon 'Mrs Higgins', Michael Xavier 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill' and Patsy Rowlands 'Mrs Pearce'. NOTE: Katie Knight-Adams plays the role of 'Eliza Doolittle' at some performances.
Matthew Bourne's choreography for AMP's groundbreaking Swan Lake received wide acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Trevor Nunn directs the show's first revival in London for more than twenty years.
News about the show
On 19 April 2000: The Royal National Theatre announced its plans the coming year including plans for a revival of the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady to be staged at the Lyttelton Theatre from March 2001.
On 7 November 2000: The musical The Witches of Eastwick has confirmed that it will be transfering from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Theatre to the Prince of Wales Theatre in spring 2001. There is unconfirmed speculation that the next production at the Drury Lane Theatre will be a transfer from The Royal National Theatre of the musical My Fair Lady.
On 14 November 2000: The full performance schedule of My Fair Lady at the Lyttelton Theatre was announced, with general booking opening on 18 December 2000.
On 8 March 2001: The musical My Fair Lady is the subject a television documentry which is scheduled to be broadcast on Saturday 10 March 2001 (BBC2 7.05pm to 8.05pm). Omnibus: My Fair Lady traces the evolution of the story from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion to the Lerner and Loewe stage and film blockbuster. The programme also follows the rehearsals for The Royal National Theatre's revival which opens on 15 March 2001 - already the entire run of this production is sold out, although a limited number of 'day-seats' will be available each day. The are also strong rumours that the production will transfer to the West End in July 2001, possibly to the Drury Lane Theatre.
On 20 March 2001: It was official confirmed My Fair Lady will transfer to the Drury Lane Theatre from 21 July 2001, tickets go on sale from 23 March 2001. The first booking period covers performances from 21 July to 3 November 2001.
On 23 March 2001: Illness has forced Martine McCutcheon to temporarily pull out of her starring role of 'Eliza' in the Royal National Theatre's revival of My Fair Lady at the Lyttelton Theatre, her understudy Alexandra Jay is currently playing the role. Last week McCutcheon was suffering from flu which forced her to miss the last preview performance although she returned the next day. Unfortunately illness has forced her to miss futher performances this week, culminating with her being admitted to hospital. The medical consultant for the RNT said: "Martine McCutcheon was admitted to hospital with a virus infection and streptococcal throat infection. She is also suffering from a sinusitis and impaired blood clotting. We hope she will be discharged early next week but we wish to ensure her recovery is complete so as to avoid any relapse" - in the past McCutcheon has suffered from glandular fever and hepatitis. more details.
On 27 March 2001: Trevor Nunn, the artistic director of the Royal National Theatre and director of the hit revival of My Fair Lady has hit out at an article that appeared in The Observer newspaper last Sunday regarding the transfer of the musical to the Drury Lane Theatre - Nunn complained against 'slurs through innuendo', more details
On 27 March 2001: It was revealed that, in less than one week, My Fair Lady has already taken over £4.7 million in advance bookings for the Drury Lane run.
On 20 May 2001: A new 4½ month booking period for My Fair Lady at the Drury Lane Theatre was announced - this covers performances from 5 November 2001 to 16 March 2002.
On 30 June 2001 Illness forced Martine McCutcheon, who plays 'Eliza' to miss a large number of performances during the Lytteton Theatre run of My Fair Lady. According to reports she performed at 63 performances while her 1st understudy, Alexandra Jay, performed at 64 performances and the 2nd understudy, Kerry Ellis, performed at 5.
On 5 July 2001: It was officially announced today by the producer Cameron Mackintosh that Martine McCutcheon will be performing six shows week when My Fair Lady transfers to the Drury Lane Theatre from 21 July 2001.
A statement issued by Cameron Mackintosh Limited said: "Martine McCutcheon who enjoyed a huge personal truimph with both critics and public has overcome a serious illness to return to the show and work towards performing eight times a week. Although she achieved this as the National, her doctors have now instructed that in order to protect against a recurrence of the virus, she must only perform six times per week at Drury Lane, rather than the eight that both she and the producers had originally intended. She has reluctantly agreed to this.
"Cameron Mackintosh and Trevor Nunn have, therefore, decided that Alexandra Jay, Martine's understudy who played the role to great acclaim on numerous occasions at the National will play the role of 'Eliza' on Monday evenings and Wednesday matinees at Drury Lane.
"Because of the huge demand for tickets for this production, ticket holders wishing to exchange to one of Martine's scheduled performances, will be able to do so from January 2002 (subject to availability) or alternatively obtain a refund."
It has also been announced that, for the Drury Lane Theatre run, the musical has taken £10million in advance bookings - claimed to be the biggest advance in West End history.
On 25 July 2001: After a sell-out season at the Lyttelton Theatre, the hit musical revival of My Fair Lady transferred to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane last Saturday (21 July). On Tuesday evening (24 July) the production had a special 'Gala Performance' - unfortunately due to technical difficulties - described by the show's director Trevor Nunn as a "traumatic experience" - the performance nearly didn't take place....
Some twenty minutes after the show was meant to start the producer Cameron Mackintosh walked onto the stage to announce to the star studded audience that, due to technical problems - the generators that allow the scenery to be moved on and off stage had broken down - the performance would be delayed by an hour.
The performance finally got underway at 8.30pm and was preceded by Cameron Mackintosh telling the audience that "We might not have 75% of the scenery but we will have 175% of the talent. In the grand tradition of musical theatre, we'll just busk it."
With the scenery moving generators still not working the the backstage staff where left to haul the scenery on and off the stage at the end of each scene - to appreciatative applause from the audience. The problems where sorted out in time for the second half which went ahead as per normal and the performance finally ended with a standing ovation at 11.45pm.
On 2 November 2001: It was officially announced that Martine McCutcheon will leave the musical My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 8 December 2001. From 10 December 2001 the starring role of 'Eliza' in the musical will be played by the experienced West End actress Joanna Riding.
The following statement was issued by the production: "Cameron Mackintosh announced today, with great regret, that Martine McCutcheon will leave the production of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Martine was originally contracted until April 2002 but, notwithstanding her acclaimed performance and wonderful notices for her portrayal as Eliza Doolittle, her performances have been restricted by a recurrence of the vocal problems that she developed earlier this year. Shortly before opening at the National Theatre, she contracted a serious virus which kept her away from the production for several weeks. It was subsequently decided that, once she returned to the show, the demands of the role on a young voice meant that she should only play six performances a week. In July, she returned to the role at Drury Lane and continued to perform regularly. However, during the last few weeks, she has been forced to miss a number of performances through a recurrence of these vocal problems. Her doctors now advise that the only way she will make a complete recovery is to take a clean break from performing for a few months, as soon as possible.
"Consequently, we have agreed to replace Martine from 10th December and, subject to her health and her doctor's advice, she will undertake as many of her scheduled performances as she can until that date.
"The role of Eliza will be taken over by Joanna Riding on December 10th. Joanna is one of London's foremost musical leading ladies, having starred in the West End in Guys and Dolls, Carousel and The Witches of Eastwick.
"Alexandra Jay, the eighteen year old actress who stepped up overnight from the position of understudy to play the role to great acclaim and who subsequently became alternate, performing twice weekly in the West End will continue to play her scheduled performances in conjunction with Kerry Ellis, the second alternate.
"Ticket holders who specifically booked to see Martine McCutcheon in this role may apply for a full refund from their point of purchase before the 30th November."
On 17 December 2001: The actor Alex Jennings will take over the role of 'Professor Henry Higgins' in the musical My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane from Monday 22 April 2002. He will take the role over from Jonathan Pryce.
Alex Jennings has recently starred in the National Theatre's productions of The Relapse and The Winter's Tale for which he won The Evening Standard Theatre Award for 'Best Actor'. His other stage work includes the title role in Albert Speer (also at the National).
A new five month booking period up to 31 August 2002 has now been opened.
The producer Cameron Mackintosh co-produced and co-financed the original National Theatre revival of My Fair Lady, he also provided the transfer funds to bring the show to the West End. The production recouped its entire capitalisation in a record-breaking 18 weeks, since opening at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in July this year. The National Theatre will now receive 25% of the profits from the Drury Lane run in addition their 'Producers Royalty'.
On 28 January 2002: A new four month booking period - covering perforamnces from 2 September to 21 December 2002 - these performances are now booking.
On 3 September 2002: A new six month booking period covering performances to 28 June 2003 was announced. Groups are able to book up to 19 December 2003.
On 16 January 2003: This production received 2 nominations at the 2003 Olivier Awards for 'Best Actress in a Musical or Entertainment' (Joanna Riding) and 'Best Actor in a Musical or Entertainment' (Alex Jennings). The winners will be announced on Friday 14 February 2003. Click here for the full list of nominations...
On 6 February 2003: It was announced that, from Monday 10 March 2003, Anthony Andrews and Laura Michelle Kelly will take over the lead roles of 'Professor Henry Higgins' and 'Eliza Doolittle' from Alex Jennings and Joanna Riding. Also joining the cast at the same time are Russ Abbot as 'Alfred P Doolittle', Stephen Moore as 'Colonel Pickering', Hannah Gordon as 'Mrs Higgins', Michael Xavier as 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill' and Patsy Rowlands as 'Mrs Pearce'. Katie Knight-Adams will play the role of 'Eliza Doolittle' at some performances.
On 27 March 2003: A new six month booking period covering performances to 20 December 2003 was announced. Tickets go on sale from 31 March 2003.
On 30 April 2003: It has been confirmed that My Fair Lady will close on 30 August 2003 after a total run of 29 months.
Extracts from the reviews:
From the Drury Lane run April 2003 with third cast (Anthony Andrews as 'Professor Higgins', Laura Michelle Kelly 'Eliza Doolittle', Russ Abbot 'Alfred P Doolittle', Stephen Moore 'Colonel Pickering', Hannah Gordon 'Mrs Higgins', Michael Xavier 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill' and Patsy Rowlands 'Mrs Pearce' (Katie Knight-Adams plays the role of 'Eliza Doolittle' at some performances):>
"It's two years since Trevor Nunn's revival of My Fair Lady first opened at the National Theatre, but it is still as fresh as a posy in a flower girl's basket. Now on its third new casting, it is polished, as you might expect, but more surprisingly it retains its vitality. The new cast members bring fresh energy and insight to their parts, with Laura Michelle Kelly in particular proving an enchanting Eliza. Anthony Andrews steps into Henry Higgins' slippers as if he were born to the part... But the real joy is Laura Michelle Kelly, who is poignant, vulnerable and yet wonderfully spirited as Eliza..." The Financial Times
"I am seduced and smitten by My Fair Lady all over again. For three hours I quite forgot the horrors of war in Iraq and surrendered to the escapist pleasures of this fabulous, old-fashioned Lerner and Loewe musical which in Trevor Nunn's recast production still works its rare, quaint magic... [Anthony Andrews and Laura Michelle Kelly] both bring something fresh and provocative to a production which fascinatingly concludes with the hint that Higgins and Eliza will not be lovers but become more like a devoted father and daughter..." The London Evening Standard
"For those seeking musical theatre at the very summit of its achievement, Trevor Nunn's revival of My Fair Lady undoubtedly remains the top recommendation in town... For intelligence, wit, unforgettable melody and moving depth of feeling there is nothing to touch the Lerner and Loewe classic. The show is in its third glorious year and has a new cast... Andrews, still so fondly remembered as the ruined golden boy Sebastian Flyte in the great TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, is good, though not quite good enough to eclipse memories of Jonathan Pryce or Jennings. Kelly, however, might just be the best Eliza we have seen so far... She's beautiful, sexy, funny and forthright, and her singing is a joy... If you haven't seen this My Fair Lady yet, book now. If you have, see it again." The Daily Telegraph
From Drury Lane run May 2002 with second cast (Alex Jennings as 'Professor Higgins' and Joanna Riding as 'Eliza Doolittle' and Dennis Waterman 'Alfred P Doolittle' (Alexandra Jay played the role of 'Eliza Doolittle' at some performances):
"...Alex Jennings takes over from Jonathan Pryce in the role still dominated by the ghost of Rex Harrison, who spoke the lines - Jennings sings them. He is brilliant too - ramrod posture, flailing arms and a terrific bark. Joanna Riding's Eliza is a bit mockney for my taste, but she still invests the evening with a magical Cinderella allure... Trevour Nunn's production is totally in tune with Lerner and Loewe's deliciously crisp, witty, literate creation... It is great to find this show - three whole hours and it just about gets away with it - in fine fettle. Unmissable for all musical lovers." The Express
"...Now Alex Jennings and Joanna Riding have replaced Jonathan Pryce and McCutcheon as Higgins and Eliza, and both are absolutely splendid. Jennings may lack some of Pryce's twinkly gravitas, but this brilliant and charismatic actor, who has never quite achieved the star status he so richly deserves, succeeds superbly in locating the lost little boy behind Higgins's bullying bluster. Riding is a wonderfully touching and funny Eliza, equally confident whether playing common or posh, blessed with a voice of soaring beauty, and movingly showing how Eliza's education comes within an ace of destroying everything that made her special in the first place... The score is superbly sung throughout, Anthony Ward's designs are an elegant delight, while Nunn's staging has a virtuosic fluency, though he does allow the action to drag in the second half. Matthew Bourne's choreography, from an Ascot where the company move like pedigree horses, to a Get Me to the Church on Time that turns into an epic pub crawl, is wonderfully inventive..." The Daily Telegraph
"...[Joanna Riding] certainly pulls off Eliza's transformation with aplomb but it's too smooth to fully convince us that Eliza has lost something deep inside her along the way. Yet bring Riding together with Alex Jennings, now playing Eliza's tutor, and you get a dynamic pairing that powers the show... Jennings is a more forthrightly belligerent bachelor, making Higgins's inability to see his own shortcomings seem even funnier, but there is also a palpable passion for the English language and a pained incomprehension about women and the human heart. It's an engaging turn and his songs are beautifully timed. Elsewhere Nunn's production is as slick as ever, refreshing the parts other revivals seldom reach... Anthony Ward's sets shift seamlessly from Covent Garden streets to Higgins's library-sized study, and Matthew Bourne's set pieces become mini-dramas in themselves. And through it all, Lerner's witty lyrics and Loewe's melodic score still weave their magic." The Times
"...Alex Jennings has shown a particular ability to embody both the angel and the devil. It serves him in good stead as he takes over from Jonathan Pryce as Professor Henry Higgins, who sets out to prove that he can pluck a flower girl off the streets and within six months pass her off as a duchess... Jennings is a very fine actor indeed - too good for this kind of handsome, well-produced, but ever so long and ever so slightly dreary night out in the West End... Elsewhere, Trevor Nunn's production plays it so tediously straight that you long for Joanna Riding's Eliza to do something useful, such as join a Marxist reading group or sign up for the suffragettes. Dance all night? No: put your feet up and rewind the movie version." The Guardian
From National Theatre (Lyttelton Theatre) run (with Jonathan Pryce as 'Professor Higgins' and Martine McCutcheon as 'Eliza Doolittle'):
"...Any doubts about Trevor Nunn directing such a commercial warhorse - in cahoots with Sir Cameron Mackintosh - were dispelled in the intelligence of this production, the bright ingenuity of the design, and the certainty we were still watching a musical about class and language that deals in human verities... [McCutcheon] was Eliza Doolittle to the life... in a performance that is bubbly, bright and immensely endearing. At the same time, her father, the dustman Alfred Doolittle, is completely rescued by Dennis Waterman from the cheery blathering of Stanley Holloway in the film... Miss McCutcheon is winning and sympathetic throughout. She looks lovely, too. And in Pryce's Higgins we have a major performance by a major actor... Three cheers, too, for the lovable old buffer of Nicholas Le Prevost's Colonel Pickering. In all, this was a glorious evening." The Daily Mail
"...McCutcheon social-climbs into high society, statuesque in white, tiara and diamonds, radiating both the jaunty assurance and vulnerability that marks her entire, impressive performance... The famous choreographer Matthew Bourne, who gave us the all-male Swan Lake and converted Bizet's Carmen into The Carman, gives Nunn's production a satirical shot in the vitals for the big scenic spectaculars... Anthony Ward's stage set, based upon an overarching Floral Hall framework, is not well suited to the outdoor scenes. This is the production's prime blemish. Nunn's production keeps the right, snappy pace. The supporting performers are exceptionally supportive..." The London Evening Standard
"A court ball, a flower girl who wants to be genteel - surely Lerner and Loewe's musical, set in a glowing Edwardian summer, is an outdated nostalgia-fest? Not at the National, where Trevor Nunn's show crackles like a house on fire... No mess or fuss slow this production down: William David Brohn's orchestrations are crisp and clean; Anthony Ward's elegant brown, grey and mauve sets are impressive without being gaudy. Matthew Bourne's choreography is at times heavy-footed - I could have done without the dustbin-lid dance pinched from a Gene Kelly movie - but its heartiness is cut with bracing astringency..." The Independent
"...Despite [Martine McCutcheon's] lack of theatrical experience, she displayed a confidence, a style and a sheer lovability that was as touching as it was funny. Unlike previous Elizas, including Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn and Liz Robertson, McCutcheon was never going to have any trouble with the cockney accent. But there was a real thrill in seeing whether her deliciously low guttersnipe could pass herself off as a duchess and persuade not just those at Ascot and the Embassy Ball, but those in the audience, that she really had got it. But, by George, she has... My Fair Lady is an undoubted masterpiece which richly deserves, and repays, all the loving care the director Trevor Nunn and his company have lavished on it. The show is staged with a mixture of fluent confidence, with atmospheric sets by Anthony Ward and some witty choreography by Matthew Bourne... There is no doubt, though, that the night belongs to McCutcheon. She's bloomin' loverly." The Daily Telegraph