PUPILS at St Helen and St Katharine, and Abingdon School wowed audiences with an outstanding production of the musical My Fair Lady, writes Alicia Drake Reece.

The 42-strong cast and 18-strong orchestra conveyed all the glamour and comedy of the Lerner and Loewe musical, itself based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, while also finding new depth and relevance to the piece.

Millie Hughes, playing Eliza Doolittle, lit up the stage with her stellar singing voice and assured sense of comedy. Hughes perfectly captured Eliza’s evolution from poor flower girl to society lady and her sense of isolation and disorientation along the way.

Oxford Mail:

A powerhouse of talent, Hughes took on the play’s uncomfortable brick wall of misogyny and blasted a giant hole through the middle of it.

“The big question,” said director Kyia Grandi, “was always how to take the intrinsic misogyny and prejudice of the play and subvert it.” and we also wanted to make the play credible for now.”

Oxford Mail:

The charismatic Kit Mannix excelled as Henry Higgins, the ‘gentleman’ and phonetician who bets his new pal Colonel Pickering that he can make a ‘Duchess’ of Eliza in a matter of weeks. Mannix aced the demanding melodies of the musical while also revealing a fragility and vulnerability to Higgins that made his character both sympathetic and credible. Matthew Buhler gave a wonderful performance as Colonel Pickering bringing new laughter to the role.

Freya Bogdanovic as Mrs Pearce and Alice Thorley as Mrs Higgins were witty and convincing, bringing calm authority to their roles. Rabble-rouser Alfie Doolittle, played by Eddie Good and Freddy Eynsford-Hill, played by Robin Collins, both charmed with their singing and energy. The ensemble cast was superlative and a tour de force of voice and choreography.

Oxford Mail:

Most significantly this school production succeeded in releasing Eliza from the play’s narrative of control. Even in her most vulnerable moments, Eliza never looked in danger of being dominated. By the end the audience was left with the distinct impression that she had roared through Henry Higgins’s life, taking what she needed, on her way to greater things.

Higgins should have seen it coming. As Eliza sang: “No, my reverberating friend, you are not the beginning and the end.”