Radio Review: My Fair Lady, Prom 2 on Radio 3

“I understand dear, it’s all so grand dear.”

One of the earlier Proms this year featured a semi-staged, fully-talent loaded yet inexplicably unfilmed production of Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical My Fair Lady. Fortunately it was recorded by Radio 3 so its reach wasn’t just limited to those who were able to get tickets for the Royal Albert Hall. And as befits the Proms, it was given an extraordinarily lush treatment by Shaun Kerrison, with John Wilson conducting his own orchestra of 70, using Previn’s film score orchestrations, and a classy cast and chorus plus dancers to make this quite the significant event and probably deserving of more than this mini-review.  

First off, it sounded simply glorious. The score is just a delight to listen to at the best of times but given full orchestral rein here, the songs like ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly?’, ‘On The Street Where You Live’ and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ amongst many many others, sparkled and shone and made an instant reminder as to why this show has endured so well. And it was largely sung well: Annalene Beechey (an actress we really ought to see more of on-stage, darn her maternal instincts ;-)) and Julian Ovenden bringing their customary interpretative skill to Eliza and Freddie and making a darn fine job of it.

Alun Armstrong’s Doolittle and Siân Phillips’ Mrs Higgins also provided strong support, where James Fleet’s impact as Colonel Pickering was rather muted. And I found it hard to warm to Anthony Andrews’ interpretation of Professor Higgins. Of all the cast I found him the one who suffered most from the lack of visuals, though I don’t really know what that means, he just didn’t come across as well as the others for me on this recording. But altogether it was highly enjoyable and I’d only say that if that much effort is going to go into other musicals for the Proms, please can we have a proper filmed version to accompany the radio broadcast.

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