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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 19:13 GMT
Fair Lady's luvverly show
Martine McCutcheon and Jonathan Pryce in My Fair Lady
Martine McCutcheon and Jonathan Pryce in My Fair Lady
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Think of My Fair Lady and images of the classic 60s movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison spring to mind.

But Trevor Nunn's superb London stage revival of the famous musical will leave you with eyes and thoughts fixed in the present.

Leads Martine McCutcheon and Jonathan Pryce - and their strong supporting cast - drew a standing ovation and three curtain calls on the night I saw them.

It was no less than they deserved, and it is to be hoped McCutcheon recovers from her current illness and returns to the show soon.

Aided by Nunn's direction and Matthew Bourne's choreography, they deliver a performance which comes close to theatrical perfection.

Martine McCutcheon
Martine McCutcheon as Eliza before her tuition

For anyone unfamiliar with the plot, My Fair Lady is based on George Bernard Shaw's 19th Century comedy of manners Pygmalion.

It focuses on mysogynistic English dialect expert Professor Higgins (Pryce) who, for a bet, endeavours to turn foul-mouthed flower girl Eliza Doolittle (McCutcheon) into the cream of London high society in a matter of weeks.

Any doubts over McCutcheon's suitablity for the prestigious ugly duckling-to-swan role evaporate as soon as she steps on stage.

Glee

A genuine product of London's East End, former soap and pop star McCutcheon has long wanted to play Eliza - and it shows.

Energy and glee seem to ooze from each of McCutcheon's pores as she throws herself into her part.

As the squawking, shuffling urchin Eliza, McCutcheon is a comic tower of force. Yet, her transformation into the graceful, sweet tongued Miss Doolittle is seamless.

Martine MacCutcheon  as Eliza
McCutcheon silences her critics

On top of that, she proves to one and all that, yes, she really can sing.

Experienced actor Pryce cannot quite reach the heights of arrogance achieved by Harrison. But what he lacks in brutality, he makes up for in smugness.

He proclaims rather than sings but still delivers the force of his message in songs such as Why Can't A Woman be More Like A Man?

Elsewhere, Dennis Waterman is every bit the gruff, grimy garbage man Alfred P Doolittle.

But his character is truly memorable as the ring leader of two ensemble pieces that will have you bouncing through the roof.

Support

The first sees Doolittle spearhead his band of ruffians into a deliciously noisy rendition of With A Little Bit of Luck, complete with clattering bin lids and assorted ironmongery.

Dennis Waterman and Jonathan Pryce
Dennis Waterman (right) uses his guile on the professor

The second marks Doolittle's debauched stag night - and final appearance on the scene.

To top the show off, there are numerous strong performances among the supporting cast.

Top of the list are Nicholas Le Prevost as Colonel Pickering, Mark Umbers as lovelorn Freddy and Caroline Blakiston as the professor's long-suffering mother.

Mix all these ingredients together and you have the recipe for an unbeatably "luvverly" evening out.

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