Technical Hitch Delays Fair Lady West End GalaDate: 25 July 2001
The gala West End opening of My Fair Lady encountered another hitch last night - but this time it was a technical rather than health-related one. The performance at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane was delayed by more than an hour when the generators that move the set's scenery broke down. The show did go on, nonetheless, with stagehands working hard to move props and backdrops manually.
When the curtain first rose last night, the star-studded, 1,200-strong audience were greeted not with stars Martine McCutcheon or Jonathan Pryce but with producer Cameron Mackintosh who explained the situation and asked them to come back in an hour. Later, before handing over to the cast, Mackintosh promised theatregoers the "most inspired production of My Fair Lady". He went on: "We might not have 75 percent of the scenery but we will have 175 percent of the talent. In the grand tradition of musical theatre, we'll just busk it."
According to the box office this morning, the wiring problem was a temporary one that has now been fixed by electricians. Today’s matinee and evening performances should go ahead as scheduled.
A sell-out at the National Theatre where it ended its four-month run at the end of last month, this production of My Fair Lady has had more than its share of bad luck, not least the considerable health problems of its star Eliza Doolittle, McCutcheon. At the National, the actress was off for a month with a throat and chest infection that required hospitalisation and was only able to return sporadically. By the end of the National run, McCutcheon had notched up 63 performances compared to her understudy Alexandra Jay's 65 and her understudy's understudy Kerry Ellis' five.
For the West End engagement at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, doctors have ordered McCutcheon to protect her voice by committing to only six performances a week, rather than the full eight. Accordingly, she will not be appearing at Monday evening and Wednesday matinee performances, when she'll be replaced by Jay. Theatregoers who booked in advance to see McCutcheon at these performances are being offered a choice of exchanging their tickets for another date (from January 2002) or obtaining a refund.
Despite the problems with ill health, My Fair Lady has become what is believed to be the fastest selling show in West End in history. Prior to opening, the Drury Lane box office had taken an estimated £10 million in advance bookings and the show is currently booking up to April 2002.
The award-winning musical, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, is adapted from George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion. This revival is directed by NT artistic director Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Matthew Bourne of Adventures in Motion Pictures fame. The production is designed by Anthony Ward with lighting by David Hersey and sound by Paul Groothuis. The musical supervisor is David White, musical director Nick Davies and orchestrator William D Brohn, with original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett.
My Fair Lady is presented at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane by Mackintosh in association with the National Theatre.
- by Terri Paddock