New York’s Lincoln Center Theater’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning production of Lerner & Loewe’s much-loved My Fair Lady will play at the Bristol Hippodrome from February 14 to 25, 2023 while on UK Tour.
My Fair Lady tells the story of a young common flower seller Eliza Doolittle, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor determined to transform her into his idea of a ‘proper lady’. The thought-provoking production was directed by Bartlett Sher and won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design, 5 Outer Critics’ Circle Awards including Best Musical Revival, and many more awards.
The musical will feature an amazing cast, with two-time Olivier Award nominee Michael D. Xavier (Sunset Boulevard) will playing Henry Higgins and Charlotte Kennedy (Les Misérables) starring as Eliza Doolittle. Known for the role of Ian Beale in EastEnders, Adam Woodyatt will play Alfred P. Doolittle, and Falkirk-born and raised Heather Jackson (The Phantom of the Opera) with her fourth time playing in My Fair Lady will reprise her role as Mrs Higgins.
Secret Bristol had the chance to chat with Heather Jackson herself about My Fair Lady, the role of Mrs Higgins and her career.
Tell us about the most humbling moment of your career?
As her fourth time being in My Fair Lady, this time Jackson came on as an understudy to Dame Vanessa Redgrave who was originally cast for the role and, unfortunately, took unwell. Describing it as the most humbling moment in her career, Heather Jackson says:
‘It’s really wonderful, strange and humbling to realise that the people you looked up to and watched in films wanting to emulate them for so many years, now you’re working alongside to.’
The rehearsal process and a typical day on tour
It is evident immense work goes into the production, and contrary to what people may think, most of the cast’s days start way before the evening show while on tour. Performing in a musical eight or nine days a week while on tour requires a top level of fitness, and a significant amount of energy conservation.
Jackson says it’s extremely important ‘to not tire yourself out because you have to have that energy for being on stage. […] You also do things during the day, like dance class, yoga, singing lessons and all those other things to keep yourself fit and ready to perform.’
Regarding the rehearsal process, Heather Jackson spoke fondly of director Bartlett Sher, who encouraged the cast to make the roles their own, no matter how small or big.
‘The lovely thing about Bart is that he let us know from day one that all of us no matter how small our roles were, any input we had, any opinions we had, were valid: he would very happily listen to them, and he wanted to see all these little relationships [develop between characters] even if they didn’t have any dialogue on stage.’
And for Jackson, she was also encouraged to make the role of Mrs Higgins her own, instead of just directly copying what was being done. While the process of rehearsals is described as ‘exhausting at times’, a shared goal, getting everyone comfortable and team spirit is what keeps driving the successful production forward.
Apart from being entertaining, how is My Fair Lady still relevant today?
When it comes to the plot of the musical itself of a man trying to mould the perfect woman can seem misogynistic at a first glance. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth: the musical is about misogyny, rather than misogynistic. With the play being set in the Edwardian era when women fought for their right to vote, Jackson describes the relevance of the musical today:
‘While women can be their own bosses and lead their own lives, but there’s still a long way to go with a lot of things. […] I think it’s [the musical] still relevant today.’
What is the overall message or feeling the spectator should walk away from the show with?
It is a story not only about how all women have choices, but also about how there was always strong women throughout history helping the men achieve what they did in male dominated societies, as well as how both sides can learn from each other.
‘It’s a tale of the strength of women and how we help men and how we can teach men: and we can learn from eachother, of course, we learn as much from men as they learn from us.’, says Heather Jackson.
What is more, Bartlett Sher’s script of My Fair Lady has a different ending to the one in the film or the original production, where Eliza stays with Higgins. We will leave it up to you to find out what the ending is, and we cannot wait to welcome My Fair Lady to Bristol Hippodrome this December.
You can book your tickets here.
UK Tour dates:
Cardiff – Millennium Centre, Nov 8 – 26
Edinburgh – Playhouse Theatre, Dec 14 – Jan 7, 23
Southampton – Mayflower Theatre, Jan 12 – 29
Sunderland – Empire Theatre, Feb 1 – 11
Bristol – Hippodrome, Feb 14 – 25
Birmingham – Hippodrome, Mar 8 – 19
Manchester – Palace Theatre, Mar 22 – Apr 1