CD Review: My Fair Lady Original 2001 London Cast

“An average man am I, of no eccentric whim”

Unless you can’t buying all sorts of theatrical related goodies in charity shops, I have few eccentric whims myself, and one such shop in Wigan surrendered a veritable treasure trove of goodies, including the soundtrack to the National Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady. I wasn’t living in the country at the time, nor obsessed with theatre for that matter, but I was still aware of the travails of erstwhile leading lady Martine McCutcheon, who managed incredibly to still win an Olivier Award despite managing fewer performances that her understudy in the original NT run.

Lerner and Loewe’s classic is another of those shows that I’ve never actually seen on stage myself, and so I have to admit that this CD didn’t really catch my attention whilst listening to it, not that it wasn’t good but rather that I felt disengaged from it. Without having seen this production either at the NT or the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to where it transferred, there was nothing to relate it back to which is often the joy of official cast recordings of classic shows. Instead, one becomes a little too aware of the differences without the context in which they were made.

The orchestrations feel tinkered with, an interpretation seeking to modernise (I assume) but instead feeling both overdone and lacking a certain something. Performances within range from the excellent, Jonathan Pryce’s Henry Higgins and Mark Umbers’s Freddie (the latter being the main reason I bought the CD if I’m honest), to the more questionable, Dennis Waterman not really conveying the earthiness of his cockney dustman on record and McCutcheon herself. In some ways I suppose it is difficult to listen to her without any prejudgement, but I had serious issues with her diction and I rarely felt comfortable listening to her, it does feel at the very edge of her vocal capabilities. So a bit of an uninspiring purchase for me but given it cost £1, I can’t really complain.

If you can only download one song, make it…Mark Umbers’ ‘On The Street Where You Live’

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