My Fair Lady by City Academy Studio Company

In My Fair Lady, a classic musical, pompous phonetics professor Henry Higgins is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to transform a Cockney working-class girl into a lady, who can pass for a cultured member of high society. His subject turns out to be the lovely Eliza Doolittle who agrees to speech lessons to improve her job prospects. Higgins and Eliza clash, then form an unlikely bond — one that is threatened by an aristocratic suitor, Freddy.

Bridewell Theatre is a little gem, nestling into the Bridewell Centre – a thriving off-west end venue at Blackfriars, built over the City of London’s first swimming pool. This versatile space plays host to a range of production companies throughout the year and can also be transformed into a truly atmospheric ballroom, a magical cabaret venue or conference space.

Our visit was to see My Fair Lady. This much celebrated and acclaimed musical was to be performed by The City Academy Studio Company. We could remember a few of the classic songs and phrases and were looking forward to refreshing our memories of this endearing story.  My Fair Lady is based on the 1913 play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and is set in London in 1912.

From the opening scenes Eliza, played by Deborah Ferro, delivers a warm, confident and convincing performance.  She delivered the essential characteristic of a poor, common flower girl in Covent Garden and drew you in with her lovely approach.  She showed us the vulnerability of Eliza, together with the strength of her principals. With great stage presence and a beautiful singing voice, Deborah was a joy to watch in her transition to ‘My Fair Lady’. 

Drew Sainsbury as Professor Higgins was equally joyful to watch and gave a lovely performance focussing on the emotional aloofness and detachment of the character, working well with Deborah, providing us with a very believable partnership.  We appreciate the challenge of this relationship, based on such an iconic film, and their chemistry was emotive and touching throughout.

Jonathan Watkiss as Col Pickering was a little more nervous in his performance, leaving us a little nervous of his delivery, however his character portrayal was strong in this trio of principal roles. Alfred P Doolittle played by Jack Gregson opens the show as he staggers drunk out of a pub and, although a little young in appearance as this character, is believable and also uses the stage very well.

The supporting roles of Mrs Pearce, played by Mami Kato, Freddy played by Lorenzo Martini and Mrs Higgins played by Leah Knapton delivered some charming and comedic moments, showing strong casting by the Director Alana Stone. 

This Company has a strong ensemble, giving us enjoyable choreography and beautiful choral singing and harmonies.

The staging and set were minimal but appropriate, allowing the cast to use the impressive floor space to best effect, especially during the dialogue scenes.  The set was seamlessly moved by the cast, especially into Professor Higgins home.

A special mention to Robert Hazle, Dan Johnson & Callum Grant-Cawdell who formed the three-piece on-stage band.  They created a much larger, beautiful sound to accompany the show.

Overall, we enjoyed this performance, and it is a very good amateur production.

Review by Shan Lawrence and Nikki Garlick

You can find out more about City Academy on their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Sunshine on Leith by Sedos, Hunchback of Notre Dame by Centre Stage and The Effect by Sedos.

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