Awesome Prom 2, my first this season:  a semi-staged performance of  Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady. It seems that even someone who doesn’t know anything about musicals will know at least one of the tunes, probably “Get me to the church on time”.

A classy, snappy and very brassy perfomance of the overture set the scene for a classy performance of Andre Previn’s upscaling of the original Broadway score for the MGM movie. The brass soloists standing up for extra emphasis on their solos. Thereafter the orchestra remained ever sharp and the conducting fluidly following the actors when they were singing.

Anthony Andrews (recreating his interpretation from the recent Theatre Royal, Drury Lane production) and James Fleet emerged from the amazingly numerous chorus, each individually costumed and portraying cameos as in a full staging.

Professor Henry Higgins, the archetypical misanthropist and his companion Colonel Hugh Pickering, both “not the marrying sort”, seduced us in to their world as the tunes of the standards soon had us Prommers in the arena swaying sympathetically.

Annalene Beechey as Eliza Doolittle, the Flower seller from Covent Garden who the Professor trains to be a Princess, sung and spoke her role in the first part in convincing cockerney (sic). Her transition in the middle of night, that results in the joyous song “I could have danced all night” was sung and played so fantastically light and seemingly effortlessly it had many of the Promenaders around me wiping their eyes. Her transitions from speaking to singing were acomplished particularly smoothly and her singing in the different character accents was convincing.

I loved Siân Philips as Mrs Higgins, understated but utterly human.

The staging was apparently simple but in reality intelligently used the space available very effectively. and the lighting complemented this, again with limited resources.

The effect of the semi-staged performance with the luscious movie score was to add context to the book and songs. Somewhat like the saying that “the pictures are better on radio” because one’s imagination adds to make up for the suspension of disbelief.

A great start to my 2012 Prom season. Despite several exotic suspended microphone arrays for Radio 3 HD sound or BBCHD and surround sound (thank you BBC), you still can't beat being there and the best sound is where there aren't any seats, Promenading in the Arena.

Prom 2: Lerner & Loewe – My Fair Lady

Alan Jay Lerner (1918–86) and Frederick Loewe (1901–88)
My Fair Lady

Annalene Beechey, vocalist (Eliza Doolittle)
Anthony Andrews, actor, Proms debut artist (Professor Henry Higgins)
James Fleet, actor (Colonel Hugh Pickering)
Alun Armstrong, actor (Alfred P. Doolittle)
Siân Philips, actress (Mrs Higgins)
Julian Ovenden, vocalist (Freddy Eynsford-Hill)
Jenny Galloway, actress (Mrs Pearce)
John Wilson Orchestra
John Wilson, conductor
Shaun Kerrison, stage director