A Review by Simon Ames of the Surrey Mirror
Surrey Opera’s staging of Lerner and Loewe’s hugely successful musical theatre, launched in the 1950s, ticked all the boxes for good casting, convincing sets, excellent direction, memorable portrayals by the principal characters and fine overall performances from the chorus and orchestra.
Rebecca Hodgetts delivered a commanding portrayal of the wilful Eliza — her transformation from flower vendor to fair lady showed the versatility that she has acquired as a young professional.
The demanding role of Professor Higgins, skilfully played by Paul Sheehan in a flawless performance of the arrogant linguist, brought all the nuances that Rex Harrison created in the original production. Portrayal of his fellow cohort Colonel Pickering was persuasively provided by Tim Baldwin. Kevin Jones captured the cockney spirit of Alfred P. Doolittle with a gusto that many could identify from Stanley Holloway’s original moulding of the larger-than-life personae of Eliza’s father.
Musical highlights from the collection of famous numbers included Doolittle’s energetic With a Little Bit of Luck, also marked by some deft cockney choreography. The speech therapy takes a new twist in The Rain in Spain as Higgins begins to see results of his long hours of training with Eliza. The soliloquy of I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face from Higgins as he brings a flicker of admiration towards his erstwhile protégé was perfection.
James McOran-Campbell as the love-lorn Freddy Eynsford-Hill brought empathy to On The Street Where You Live and enduring characterisations came from both Morven Rae as Higgins’ long-suffering housekeeper Mrs Pearce and Alison Cooper as the peace-keeping mother of the professor.
The show was another triumph for the multi-talented Jonathan Butcher who directed the stage production and the choreography as well as handling music direction and conducting. It was an evening of rich entertainment and high accomplishment — all that we have come to expect from the skilful company of enthusiasts that make up SO.
A Review by Gordon Bull
Surrey Opera’s production was scintillating as much for the excellent orchestra as for the principals and cast. Eliza (Rebecca Hodgetts) was supreme as the cockney flower girl metamorphosing into the fair lady she was to become with beautiful diction and precise accent. Higgins (Paul Sheehan) played his part superbly with just a touch of Rex Harrison, and Pickering (Tim Baldwin) well cast. Previously I had always winced at the part of Freddie but James McOran-Campbell was so perfect in the part with beautiful voice that I was completely converted.
Kevin Jones doubled as Eliza’s father and Zoltan Kodaly which he coupled superbly, bringing quite a different vocal touch to each part-the rough cockney to the sophisticated Hungarian polyglot was a transition to die for. Morven Rae doubled equally well as housekeeper Mrs Pearce and Freddie’s mother. Alison Pearce as Mrs Higgins was superb.
I was fascinated to see that surtitles were brightly displayed for I must say that the diction was totally acceptable but I had never quite before managed to capture all of those speedy syllables that Eliza has to spit out at Higgins in the final scene. She was amazing, but to see them certainly helped. What a nerve-wracking experience it must be to know that every word one sings and says is there for the audience to match up, should they be distracted. I salute them all.
The surtitle was fortunate for some in that that SHOCKING WORD in the race scene uttered by Eliza was lost in the clatter of hooves at that important point. As to the run up — what were those horsey noises that caused me so much mirth and merriment?
Finally one must pay tribute to the sets and the staff who so ably reconstructed scenes before our eyes. Then there was the joy of experiencing the costume of the period and the whole gamut.
Chorus and principals were spot on, so thanks to Director Jonathan Butcher, all the musicians(!), the backroom boys and girls for such an excellent, musically satisfying production.
(Ed. We also saw this show. What a joy to hear the music so well played and sung UNAMPLIFIED!)