I wasn’t sure what to expect when this show was advertised under the well-known musical title ‘My Fair Lady’ but described as ‘a staged concert’. However what I did know was that it was going to be the work of Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust’s (BOST) and having reviewed this talented musical theatre company before, I knew it was going to be worth watching.
‘My Fair Lady’ described on the programme as ‘a staged concert, celebrating 60 years of this glorious show’ was showcased in the magnificent St George’s Hall, Liverpool. I was shown to my seat by a cast member who was completely in character and set the tone for the evening. Just sitting in this stunning venue is a luxury alone, with its royal architecture, grand high ceilings and exceptional chandelier centrepiece, St George’s Hall is the perfect setting for an evening of celebration.
The concert was an unusual set up with a narrator sitting in front of the stage, retelling the history of ‘My Fair Lady’ and turn taking with the members of BOST Musicals who graced the stage with all the classic songs and iconic scenes from the musical. At first, I queried the benefits of the narration, why not just put on the show? However I soon saw the flexibility that this concert gave BOST to showcase their magnitude of talent by having five leading ladies take on role of Eliza Doolittle. The company could also veer away from the constraints of sets and theatre stages and let St George’s hall speak for itself whilst allowing the audience focus on the much loved songs and best scenes from this musical. Moreover it was very insightful, as the show carries a lot of history that is generally unknown but this concert shared that information which in turn, helped the audience to celebrate the journey of this musical. This concert is something quite different and different is good.
The history of this show dates back to the 1930’s we were told by Liz Robertson who took on the Narrator role. Liz has very close links with the musical being the widow of Alan Jay Lerner, My Fair Lady’s playwright and lyricist. Liz firstly helped conceive this concert in 2016 and was the original narrator when it debuted at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden; a fitting location as that is where Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins’ first met. Her narration was informative and the concert is well structured with a variety of gentle underscores from the live four piece band aiding seamless transitions between the narration and live stage action. The show also included some ‘forgotten songs’ and recordings which were taken out of the musical after it was first written which added more variety and kept things interesting.
BOST themselves left no stone unturned when it came to transporting the audience to Edwardian England and recreating the magic of “My Fair Lady”. This company knows how to do musical theatre in style. The five leading ladies were wonderful to watch with their undeniable voices, each sharing their own individual stance on the character of Eliza Doolittle. This allowed the audience to view Eliza in different lights and understand the debt of her character even more. It was ‘loverly’ to be reminded of the comedy this show encompasses and the audience was left smiling particularly during funny numbers such as ‘Ascot Gavotte’ and ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’. What is really noteworthy about this company is the strength of their impressive male cast which is often a rarity in amateur musical theatre companies. The harmonies were rich, the accents were apt, the choreography was slick- I could not fault the whole performance and the superb energy which came from each and every individual on stage.
This concert is a delightful tribute to a timeless musical with its magnificent costumes, glorious singing and skilled acting making for a polished and professional night of entertainment. Congratulations to BOST Musicals who are achieving their goal as written on the programme ‘providing a professional standard of theatre in amateur productions’.
North West End Rating: ★★★★★