Celebrating their 70th anniversary this year, Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company have chosen a true musical classic to mark the occasion and have created a production to be proud of. All the well-known hallmarks of the original versions are there – the black and white Ascot Gavotte providing a good contrast to the raucous atmosphere of the Covent Garden street sellers – but the production team (Craig Sproston – MD, Tye Harris – Director and Anna Forster – Choreographer) have managed to inject just the right amount of contemporary elements to give the production a well-balanced, fresh and pacy feel throughout. As a result the enjoyment and enthusiasm of the whole company comes across from the very beginning.
Of course, performing such a classic often brings with it high expectations from audiences who have the performances of former Hollywood versions very much imprinted on memory. Stepping in to the lead roles in these cases means stepping into very big shoes indeed! On her first performance with BHMTC, Lucy Follows is a confident Eliza Dolittle, full of attitude and with the perfect air of poise and grace for becoming the ‘princess’ of the later scenes. The score for Eliza is notoriously difficult, but Lucy handles it effortlessly and her vocal performance in all numbers is impeccable. I would like to have seen a much starker contrast between her flower girl and the later scenes. Her early Eliza could afford to let go and be much more ‘common’ to make the transitions in the story more obvious. Unfortunately some of the humour of Higgins’ early interactions with her get a little lost as a result of the lack of contrast.
Tim Brown brings a renewed approach to Henry Higgins. Here is a Professor who is much more likeable and charismatic (though still infuriating!) than previous incarnations of the role and it really works to convince the audience why Eliza might actually decide to return to him at the end of the show. Tim’s singing is equally skilled, bringing lots of character and feeling to the very word-heavy score. He is ably supported by John Leaman as Colonel Pickering and Deb Glennon as Mrs Pearce and the four of them combined really hold the show together.
There are strong performances too from Carol Preston; a suitably demure but scathing Mrs Higgins, Adam Siviter as the bumbling Freddy Eynsford-Hill and Stephen Homer as the unswerving Alfred Doolittle, whose Get Me To The Church On Time number combines well with an exuberant chorus to give a real boost to Act 2 and conjures up images of what we can only imagine a turn of the century Covent Garden stag party to have been like!
Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company have created a production to be proud of for their 70th year. Happy anniversary to all involved!
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.