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My Fair Lady/Swan Theatre
No matter how many times musical fans have walked down the street of My Fair Lady before, going hand in hand with WODS at the Swan theatre in Worcester this week will make it seem a fresh experience.
Waiting round every corner are big familiar show stopping numbers and it's hard for the packed opening night audience to stop themselves singing along. There's no complacency in the production, though, as the quality performers in the amateur group's stable work hard and the skill of the direction by Chris Holloway shines through.
The story is based on George Bernard Shaw's left-wing examination of the class divide in his play Pygmalion, which still resonates today, though this Lerner-Loewe romantic comedy version is much better known.
Gemma Martyn Smith is outstanding here as Eliza Doolittle, making the perfect transition from the guttersnipe flower girl given an upper class gloss through a linguistic experiment. She handles the change from Cockney to classy without missing a beat.
It was unfortunate for Simon Atkins as the pompous perpetrator Henry Higgins that an ill-timed cold he was clearly battling took away some of the bombast and clarity from his voice but he still managed to make the smug scientist a likeable figure.
Quality support from Bruce Wyatt as co-conspirator Col Pickering, Gary Kimber as Alfred P. Doolittle and Suzanne Millington as the Professor's long-suffering mother all add to the entertainment along with fine music and choreography, particularly in the chorus scenes. The Ascot races set-piece was especially well handled.
At three hours, it's a long evening but the pace never lets up and there's always another great song to look forward to. It runs until Saturday.