With its delicate shell-like architecture, the Sydney Opera House has become an icon of Australia. But its new record-breaking hit production is an American musical set in London, and directed by international star Julie Andrews.
The new production of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady, directed by original Eliza Doolittle, Andrews, officially opened September 6. The production has reportedly “blown the roof off the Sydney Opera House box office, selling more tickets than any other show in the building’s history,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The paper offered no box-office figures, but said the production has been sold out since it opened and broke the record previously set by The King and I (2014), with Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.
The cast of the 60th anniversary revival stars three-time Olivier winner Alex Jennings as Professor Higgins, young Australian star Anna O’Byrne as Eliza, Reg Livermore as Alfred P. Doolittle, Robyn Nevin as Mrs. Higgins, Mark Vincent as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Tony Llewellyn-Jones as Colonel Hugh Pickering and Deidre Rubenstein as Mrs. Pearce.
My Fair Lady will also travel to Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre, QPAC beginning March 12, 2017, and later play Melbourne’s Regent Theatre starting May 11. Tickets for the Brisbane and Melbourne engagements are scheduled to go on sale later this month.
The paper quoted Opera Australia chief executive Craig Hassall as saying that the financial success of My Fair Lady does not mean the company will program more musicals at the expense of its primary reason for being—opera. But it will “subsidize the production of less popular operas.”
Andrews and the show’s producers aimed at “recreating the original production in its entirety.” The team used ground plans, costume and scenic designs from the 1956 original that opened at Broadway's Mark Hellinger Theatre. According to the producing team, “Trips to Wisconsin, London, New York City and Los Angeles were made and hours were spent trawling over drawings, costume and set designs in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Arts Centre Melbourne Performing Arts Collection just to name a few. Cold calls were made and leads were given as the journey unfolded. Along the way the team were fortunate enough to meet with the previous assistants of Cecil Beaton (the original costume designer) and Oliver Smith (the original set designer), who uncovered important materials that made recreating the magic of the 1956 Broadway production a step closer to reality.”
The creative team includes set designer Oliver Smith, costume designer Cecil Beaton, Tony-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli, musical director Guy Simpson, lighting designer Richard Pilbrow and sound designer Michael Waters.
My Fair Lady, according to press notes, tells “the tale of a Cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle whose world was forever changed by the brilliant and demanding phoneticist, Professor Higgins.”
The original production of the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical was directed by playwright Moss Hart, who created a theatre legend when he closeted himself with Andrews at the New Amsterdam Theatre and coached her to create the role that became an icon of musical theatre.
(Updated October 6, 2016)