Thursday, December 19, 2013

Allegrissimo Vivace – My Fair Lady at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris

Foto: Théâtre du Châtelet

Suzanne Daumann

Christmas time is party time and this production of My Fair Lady, created in 2010 and taken up again this year, is a party treat indeed.  The story, however, is not exactly of the “and they lived happily ever after”-kind. The flower girl Eliza is taught by phonetics professor Higgins to overcome her cockney accent, and to behave correctly in society, so much so that she is taken for a princess. In the process, she loses her own roots and finally doesn’t belong anymore. In Covent Garden, her ancient comrades don’t recognize her but marriage into the High Society isn’t really an option either. The ending suggests a love story between Eliza and Higgins. Is this going to work out? We’ll never know.  The musical and Carl Loewe’s joyous music rather accentuate the positive, and revel in the idea that change is possible – and in piquant class satire.  Robert Carsen’s staging follows closely the classic Broadway productions and the movie, while trying to respect George Bernard Shaw who did not want a happy ending for the original play “Pygmalion”. The sober and elegant stage decorations by Tim Hatley set off Anthony Powell’s gorgeous and sometimes totally exuberant costumes and the glorious cast and their singing and acting. Eliza’s dress in the Ascot scene is a joy unto itself, just like the ladies’ in the Gavotte. The gripping absolutely ripping choreography of the whole scene makes one want to weep with joy, as does the boisterous stag night and of course the “Wouldn’t it be loverly”-scene.  Katherine Manley, soprano, is Eliza and one has to admire the way she holds back on her vocal possibilities for the occasion, giving force and sensitivity to her character. The same goes for Ed Lyon, tenor, who embodies Freddy Ainsford-Hill. One wishes to hear more of his beautiful voice, although he masters the spoken dialogue perfectly and is a joy to behold as well. Donald Maxwell, baritone, sings, plays and dances Alfred P. Doolittle, giving depth and feeling to this rambunctious philosopher and poet. And last but not least at all Alex Jennings is an elegant Henry Higgins, hiding beautiful ballroom manners and a feeling heart behind gruff misogyny. The secondary characters should not be forgotten: Nicholas Le Prevost is Colonel Pickering, Caroline Blakiston is Mrs Higgins and Lee Delong is Mrs Pearce and they all are delightful in their own way. Jayce Ogren conducts the Orchestre Pasdeloup with an irresistible drive, highlighting joyous details of the score, giving a solid rhythmic foundation to Lynne Page’s equally irresistible choreography. Everything comes together tonight to our tremendous enjoyment – bravi all around and standing ovations!


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