MY FAIR LADY – Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Lowe
For Henry Higgins, professor of linguistics and confirmed misogynist, transforming a streeturchin into a lady is a trivial task, done to honour a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering. Until, of course, he meets the proud little cockney, Eliza Doolittle, and finds that his raw material might not be so easy to mould. Lerner and Loewe’s exuberant adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion was always destined to be a smash hit.
The irascible Henry Higgins, the irresistible Eliza Doolittle, and the glorious succession of show-stopping numbers from “I Could Have Danced All Night” to “Get Me to the Church On Time” propelled this classic story into Broadway history.
Now My Fair Lady comes to Australia in a new production from the team that created The Pirates of Penzance. Expect extravagant sets, outstanding performances, a virtuosic chorus and a veritable fashion parade of costumes.
Legend of Australian music theatre, Reg Livermore stars as Henry Higgins with one of Opera Australia’s brightest young talents, Taryn Fiebig, as Eliza. Nancye Hayes, who danced in the original Australian production at the start of her illustrious music theatre career, now joins the cast as the acerbic Mrs Higgins. This has all the ingredients for a “luvverly” night in the theatre!
About the story
Henry Higgins, an arrogant, irascible professor of phonetics, boasts to fellow linguist Colonel Pickering that he can train any woman to speak so properly that he could pass her off as a duchess, including Eliza Doolittle, a poor girl with a strong Cokney accent whom he encounters selling flowers in Covent Garden Pickering is intrigued by Higgins’s boast and wagers that he cannot make good on his claim. Higgins takes on the challenge and begins an intensive make-over of Eliza’s speech, manners and dress in preparation for her appearance at the Embassy Ball. Complicating matters is Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle, a cheerfully amoral and drink-loving dustman, who shows up to extract money from Higgins for compromising Eliza’s virtue.
Higgins is impressed by the man’s natural gift for language and his brazen lack of moral values (“Can’t afford ’em!”) and flippantly recommends Doolittle to an American millionaire who is seeking a lecturer on moral values. In the end, Doolittle gets a surprise bequest of four thousand pounds a year from the millionaire, raising him uncomfortably into middle-class respectability. Meanwhile, Eliza endures speech therapy, endlessly repeating phrases such as “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen” (to demonstrate that “h”s must be aspirated) and “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” (to emphasize the “a”). Just as things seem hopeless, she suddenly “gets it” after Higgins eloquently speaks of the glory of the English language, and thereafter her speech is transformed into an impeccable upper class English accent. For her first public tryout, Higgins takes her to Ascot Racecourse, where she makes a good impression with her polite manners but shocks everyone by her vulgar Cockney attitudes and slang (thus establishing one of the show’s themes, that good elocution is only “skin deep.”)
However, she still captures the heart of an eager young man named Freddy Eynsford-Hill. The final test hinges on Eliza’s passing as a lady at the Embassy Ball, which she does successfully, despite the presence of a Hungarian phonetics expert who seeks to unmask her identity. After the ball, Higgins’s ungrateful boasting of his triumph and his pleasure that the experiment is now over leave Eliza feeling used and abandoned. She walks out on him, leaving the seemingly clueless Higgins mystified by her ingratitude. But Higgins soon realizes his feelings for her – that he has “grown accustomed to her face”. When Eliza tentatively returns to him, the musical ends on an ambiguous moment of possible reconciliation between teacher and pupil.
Director – Stuart Maunder
Set Designer – Richard Roberts
Costume Designer – Roger Kirk
Lighting Designer – Trudy Dalgleish
Choreographer – Elizabeth Hill
Reg Livermore – Professor Henry Higgins
Taryn Fiebig – Eliza Doolittle
Robert Grubb – Alfred P. Doolittle
Nancye Hayes – Mrs Higgins
Matthew Robinson – Freddy Eynsford-Hill
Rhys McConnochie – Colonel Pickering
Judi Connelli – Mrs Pearce (Melbourne)
Adele Johnston – Mrs Pearce (Sydney and Canberra)
Taryn Fiebig graduated from the University of Western Australia in 1993 with a Bachelor of Music in Cello performance after which she commenced vocal training with Molly McGurk and later with Megan Sutton.
It was her particular interest in early music repertoire which won her two scholarships to the Dartington International Summer School in 1995 and 1996, studying with Emma Kirkby, Evelyn Tubb and Anthony Rooley continuing her studies with Evelyn Tubb in 1999 on an Arts WA Scholarship. Further study with Jane Manning was made possible by a Churchill Fellowship in 2000. She completed the Emerging Performers Programme at the Australian Opera Studio in 2003, having studied with Gregory Yurisich and Patricia Price.
As a soloist, she has performed the 15th Century Masterpiece El Cant de la Sibil-la with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra for their popular Noël Noël Christmas concerts. Other engagements include performances with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Archangelo, Collegium Musicum, Perth Oratorio Choir and Magnetic Pig contemporary music ensemble. Internationally, Taryn has performed in Los Angeles with the contemporary music ensemble L.A. EAR unit, in England with the English Chamber Orchestra in St. John’s Smith Square, London and on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 in the radio dramas Southland and Pembroke, Arcadia.
Her operatic work includes several leading roles for the Australian Opera Studio, Marie in Lindsay Vickery’s opera-noir Rendez-vous (Tura Events 2001), Mary Magdalen in Les Saintes Femmes au Tombeau (1999 York Early Music Festival, UK) and Angel in Plainsong (2000 Perth International Arts Festival/Black Swan Theatre Co.)
In 2005, Taryn Fiebig joined Opera Australia’s Young Artist Development Programme. Her principal roles with this company included Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Sirena in Rinaldo, the Dew Fairy/Sandman in Hansel and Gretel, The Plaintiff in Trial by Jury, Papagena in The Magic Flute, Rose in Lakmé, Servilia in La Clemenza di Tito, Karolka in Jenufa, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Wood Sprite in Rusalka and Gianetta in The Gondoliers. In 2008, will sign Clorinda in Cenerentola, Musetta in La bohème and the leading role of Eliza Dolittle in the national tour of My Fair Lady.
Taryn Fiebig’s discography includes French Baroque Cantatas, The Concert Français and Old American Songs for ABC Classics.
Professor Henry Higgins
Reg Livermore is presently and proudly celebrating a career that has spanned fifty years during which time he has been actively involved in most aspects of the theatre: as performer, author, designer and director. While still at school, having an absolutely clear idea where his future lay, young Reg began staging backyard concerts and hiring local halls to put on pantomimes in aid of well-known local charities. After some initial training at the Independent Theatre his career took off propitiously at Sydney’s legendary Phillip Street Theatre where he worked alongside the stellar talents of Barry Humphries and Gordon Chater, and then at Hayes Gordon’s Ensemble Theatre of which he was one of the founding members.
He appeared frequently with the Melbourne Theatre Company, South Australian Theatre Company, the Independent, Nimrod and the Old Tote. Early forays into television saw him host the children’s show Crackerjack and his own Saturday night variety show I’m Alright Now for the ABC. The advent of his notable stage successes began with major roles in Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and the 1974 show stopper Dr. Frank’n’Furter in the original Australian Rocky Horror Show. This explosive performance won him financial backing for a series of startling one- man shows, a list that includes Betty Blokk Buster Follies, Wonder Woman, Son of Betty, Sacred Cow and Firing Squad. Considered groundbreaking in their time the self-penned entertainments earned Reg his national status and reputation. Broadway Musicals he starred in subsequently were Barnum, and the Mel Brooks Musical The Producers for which he won a Mo Award. More recently Reg has essayed the comic roles in Opera Australia’s Gilbert and Sullivan productions notching up memorable performances in Iolanthe, The Pirates of Penzance and The Gondoliers.
A long list of achievements in the theatre and on television won him a Creative Artists Fellowship (1995), and in 1996 a ‘gong’, awarded Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for services to the theatre and to the community. His autobiography ‘Chapters and Chances’ was published in 2004 by Hardie Grant.
Reg regards his casting as Professor Higgins in Opera Australia’s production of My Fair Lady as a timely and golden opportunity. He has secretly dreamed of playing this role for many years, but an uncharacteristic reticence prevented him from putting up his hand. That is until now.
Alfred P. Doolittle
Since graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 1978, Robert has worked extensively in theatre, film and television. His musical theatre credits include the 2001-2002 tour of Mamma Mia!, the Really Useful Company’s 1996 production of Sunset Boulevard and the title role in Ken Hill’s The Phantom of the Opera in 1995. Robert is currently appearing in the Melbourne season of the highly successful Ben Elton musical We Will Rock You, based on the music of rock band Queen, which will tour Australia in 2006 and Japan in 2007.
Robert has starred in some of Australia’s best loved films, including Bruce Beresford’s Paradise Road, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Phar Lap, Peter Weir’s Gallipoli and Gillian Armstrong’s breakthrough film My Brilliant Career.
However it was the role of Dr Geoff Standish in the popular TV series The Flying Doctors in the late 80s and early 90s that made Robert a familiar face in Australia and beyond. More recent television credits include McLeods Daughters, All Saints, Curtin, MDA, The Secret Life of Us, SeaChange and The Potato Factory. Robert played opposite David Wenham in 2003’s critically acclaimed CoxKnight miniseries After the Deluge. He will also appear in the Stephen King adaptation Salem’s Lot, from Band of Brothers director Mikael Salomon, scheduled to air on US television later this year.
Robert has a wealth of stage experience. A particular highlight was his tour de force performance in the central role of Rene Gallimard in the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC)/Harry M. Miller co-production of M. Butterfly. Other MTC credits include Company and Into the Woods for director Roger Hodgman, and Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Stoppard’s Arcadia and the French farce A Flea in Her Ear for director Simon Phillips. Robert has also worked for most of the other major Australian theatre companies including Nimrod, Playbox, the Queensland Theatre Company and the Sydney Theatre Company. He has appeared in some 25 productions for the State Theatre Company of South Australia for directors such as Jim Sharman, Nick Enright and Neil Armfield.
In 2000, Robert directed and performed in an adaptation of Tennyson’s Enoch Arden for the Melbourne stage. The production was a critical and audience success and earned Robert a Green Room Award for his performance.
Actor, dancer, singer, choreographer and director Nancye Hayes OAM began her career in JC Williamson’s production of My Fair Lady in 1961. However it was the title role in Sweet Charity in 1967 that established her name. Since then she has sung and danced her way through a cavalcade of musical successes including Pippin, Irene, Annie, Chicago, Sweeny Todd and Nine. She won a Victorian Green Room Award, the Norman Kessell Memorial Award and the Sydney Theatre Critics’ Circle Award for Best Actress for her performance in Guys and Dolls and a MO Award for 42nd Street. Her other stage credits include Broadway Bound, Showboat, Same Time Next Year, The Glass Menagerie, Steel Magnolias, Stepping Out, Follies in Concert, The Music Man, The Snow Queen, Eureka and Oklahoma and the Sydney Theatre Company’s revival production of Summer Rain.
As a director, Nancye’s credits include Crazy for You and The World Goes Round (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts), Australia’s Leading Ladies Concert (Brisbane Festival), The Wizard of Oz (GFO/SEL/Macks Entertainment), The 3 Divas (Christine Dunstan Productions), Annie (The Frost Organisation) and Gypsy starring Judi Connelli (part of the Encore Series for The Production Company). Nancye also worked as associate director alongside Judy Davis on Barrymore for Sydney Theatre Company.
Nancye’s choreographic credits include My Fair Lady for Victorian State Opera (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane seasons), Falsettos for Sydney Theatre Company and Guys and Dolls for NIDA.
Nancye’s first cabaret show Nancye with An E, written and directed by Tony Sheldon, has played throughout Australia and is available on CD. Nancye is honoured to have received two Lifetime Achievement awards – from the Variety Club in 1997 and from the Green Room Awards Association in 2003.
Originally hailing from Rockhampton, Queensland, Matthew is fast establishing himself as a leading man of Australian music theatre.
Having joined the original Australian cast of Mamma Mia! direct from studying at WAAPA, his subsequent onstage roles include the title role in Pippin (Peter Cousens’ Kookaburra), the title role in the contemporary opera McCubbin (Hydra/NGV), Hortensio in Kiss Me Kate (The Production Company), the UK and Swedish Eurovision entrants in Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision (Glynn Nicholas), the narrator and musician in Two Weeks With The Queen (Windmill Performing Arts); Gene Gorman in the Australasian premiere of Sondheim’s Saturday Night (Magnormos); and, the role of Teague in the World premiere of Australian play God’s Last Acre (Playbox Theatre Company).
On television, Matthew has featured in guest roles on Stingers and Blue Heelers, appeared as a resident vocal coach on the Fox 8 reality series The Singing Office, performed alongside Mary Tyler Moore in A Most Deadly Family (Village Roadshow), been a special guest on Good Morning Australia and Mornings with Kerri-Anne and most recently appeared in the yet to be released Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks teleseries The Pacific.
As a writer, Matthew is the youngest ever recipient of Australia’s richest theatre-writing accolade, the Pratt Prize for Music Theatre, awarded for his first musical Metro Street. It was subsequently workshopped through The Production Company, produced in concert at the 2006 Adelaide Cabaret Festival and in 2007, received a showcase reading produced by Arts Asia Pacific, starring theatre legend Nancye Hayes. Metro Street is currently in development for its first full scale Australian production.
Matthew’s other compositions include whole or part contributions to: the Off Broadway revue Get Here (York Theater Company, N.Y.C.); the La Salle-SIA Music Theatre Degree Launch (Singapore); The Windows Project (ATYP and Darlinghurst Theatre seasons, Sydney); The Angels Project (ATYP); Five Minute Call (FOTW Theatre, Melbourne); Metrosexual; (Melbourne, Canberra seasons); Immaculate Confection (national tour); Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Perth season); and, countless contributions to charity concerts and cabaret projects throughout Australia, the USA and the UK. In 2003, Matthew was presented with the inaugural Judges’ Award for Original Music at the last ever Sydney Cabaret Convention for his work with upcoming star of Wicked, Lucy Durack.
Outside of his upcoming role as Freddy Eynsford-Hill in Opera Australia’s My Fair Lady, Matthew’s current project is the pop-opera group Forte (fortethegroup.com), a four-man concert act formed with the vision of bringing classical music to the Australian public through the rearrangement of Australian popular music for classical voice. For more information on Matthew, visit matthewrobinson.com.au.
Rhys McConnochie made his debut fifty years ago with the New Zealand Players in a production of Pygmalion in which he played the Sarcastic Bystander and understudied Colonel Pickering. Half a century later he plays Pickering in My Fair Lady for Opera Australia.
He received a Government Bursary to study overseas and spent a year in Paris at a mime school. He then went to London to continue his studies and in 1963 he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years. During that time he worked with a number of leading directors including Peter Hall, Peter Brook and Michel Saint Denis as well as performing alongside actors such as Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Ian Holm, Cyril Cusack, Eric Porter and Donald Sinden.
In the late Seventies he joined the Prospect Company at the Old Vic to act in Saint Joan (with Eileen Atkins) and Anthony and Cleopatra (with Barbara Jefford). He re-joined the RSC in 1980 for a tour of Britain in Henry IV Parts 1 & 2.
In 1981 Richard Wherrett invited him to join the Sydney Theatre Company for Cyrano de Bergerac and Amadeus. He also appeared in Heartbreak House, Measure for Measure and in Jim Sharman¹s highly acclaimed production of Strindberg¹s Dance of Death. In Adelaide his credits included A Winter’s Tale, Ring Round the Moon and A Dream Play which also played in Sydney. His recent work for the MTC includes The History Boys, King Lear, Inheritance, The Seagull, Death of a Salesman, Measure for Measure, Life After George, Misalliance and Molly Sweeney. He played Merlin in Camelot for the Production Company and appeared in Henry V for Bell Shakespeare Company. He has also directed productions for the STC, MTC and Griffin Theatre.
Rhys has directed numerous productions at leading Drama Schools in the UK. He was invited by NIDA to direct a number of productions that included student actors Richard Roxburgh, Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette. In 1994 he joined the staff at WAAPA in Perth and was Head of the Acting Department for several years. One of his students there was Hugh Jackman. Recently he has worked at the VCA Drama School in Melbourne where he now lives.
On Television he has been seen in City Homicide, MDA, Stingers, Bootleg, Mother and Son, Brides of Christ, Ring of Scorpio, Come In Spinner, Whose Baby? The Anzacs and Bodyline. His films include Romulus My Father, Black and White, The Man From Snowy River II, The Empty Beach and The Wild Duck.
Mrs Pearce (Melbourne)
Judi Connelli’s 40 year career spans opera, operetta, theatre, musicals, television, cabaret and recording.
Judi’s performances in 2007 included the roles of Mrs. Lovett in Opera Australia’s production of Sweeney Todd and The Duchess of Plaza-Toro in Opera Australia’s The Gondoliers. She also toured nationally with Suzanne Johnston in the acclaimed cabaret show Take Two.
Other roles that Judi has performed for Opera Australia include Mother Goose (The Rake’s Progress), Golda (Fiddler On The Roof), Zozo (The Merry Widow) and Katisha (The Mikado). Her musical theatre repertoire includes The Witch (Into The Woods), Mrs. Peacham (The Threepenny Opera), Matron Mama Morton (Chicago) (all for the Sydney Theatre Company), THE PACK OF WOMEN (for stage and screen), JERRY’S GIRLS (Australian tour), Fraulein Schneider (Cabaret), for The Production Company, the role of Mama Rose (Gypsy) and Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard).
Judi has appeared with both the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. As one of The Three Divas, she’s also performed with the Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras. In 2005 she performed in concert with Australia’s Leading Ladies throughout Australia and in 2006, Perth Festival invited Judi to perform the role of ‘The Old Lady’ in a concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.
Concentrating on her cabaret shows has brought much success in major Australian cities and internationally. Following a triumphant appearance at the New York Cabaret Convention in 1995, Judi returned in 1997 to sell-out concerts at the Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall), Club Eighty Eight and the famed Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel. In 2001 she presented her one woman biographical show Back To Before in the New York Town Hall and has since toured Australian eastern capital cities with that show. Back To Before was recorded on ABC Classics and was nominated for an ARIA Award the same year.
Judi’s contribution to the Performing Arts and various charities was recognised by an Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2004. Other awards she has received include the Melbourne Theatre Critics Green Room Award (1983), Mo Awards (1992, 1994, 2002, 2003), a Helpmann Award (2003), New York’s Bistro Award (1998), and an ARIA Award for the CD Perfect Strangers with Suzanne Johnston.
Mrs Pearce (Sydney/Canberra)
Adele is a versatile artist having performed in musicals, plays, cabaret, lieder and concert recitals, opera and operetta. Adele completed a three year acting course at the Ensemble Studios under the guidance of Hayes Gordon OBE. Since 1981 Adele has performed in Elvis the Musical, Brel In Cabaret, La Cage aux Folles, Nimue in Camelot, Soubrette in Sugar Babies, Me & My Girl, My Fair Lady, Pyjama Tops with John Inman, Move Over Mrs Markham, Andy in Stepping Out, The Wizard of Oz, A Little Night Music with STC, and Scaling the High C’s at the Tilbury Hotel.
Adele recommenced operatic voice training and was Runner Up in the Melbourne Herald Sun Aria and Finalist of the McDonalds Aria in 1991. Studying and performing in London and Europe, Adele performed Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Abbaye du Royaumont, France, in concert at Australia House with David Harper.
On return to Australia, Adele performed in Into the Woods, My Fair Lady, A Little Night Music (MTC), Follies In Concert (SOH), Sunday In the Park With George, Gershwin, Cole Porter and Friends (Taronga Zoo and Melbourne Botanical Gardens), and the Secretary in Menotti‘s The Consul for the inaugural Brisbane Festival.
Adele was the Winner of the Illawarra Aria, The National Lieder Society, and in 1997 was awarded the Mietta’s Song Recital Award.
In 2000 Adele was engaged as the vocal soloist for Ku-ring-gai Virtuosi, performing and broadcasting recitals for 2MBSFM and ABC Classic FM as well as performing at Australia House, London with Deborah de Graaff and Anthony Legge. Repertoire encompassied Mozart, Bonnoncini, Borodin, Shostakovich, De Falla, Berg, Berlioz, Berg, Korngold and Australian Composers. John Carmichael arranged The Sun Worship for Adele and Deborah, which was broadcast in a live recital with Three of Hearts for ABC Classic FM.
Adele has broadcast numerous recitals for ABC Classic FM, including The Treasury of Song Series with Andrew Greene, and other recitals with Fiona McCabe and David Harper.
Adele has performed in recital for the Sydney Festival – Twilight Concerts and Eugene and Roie, International Barossa Music Festival, for the Mozart Society, Lieder Society, Wagner Society and numerous Federated Music Clubs.
Adele’s recordings include Wagner and Korngold Lieder with Andrew Greene for Move Records and the Australian Cast Recording of La Cage aux Folles.
Since 2001 Adele has performed in over forty productions for Opera Australia including performing the roles of Marcellina Le Nozze di Figaro, Marianne Leitmetzer in Der Rosenkavalier, Public Opinion Orpheus In the Underworld, Suor Dolcina in Suor Angelica, and the G & S roles of Cousin Hebe and Inez. Adele has also covered roles such as Miss Jessel Turn of the Screw, Belinda in Dido & Aeneas, Zweite Dame in Die Zauberflöte, La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Duchess of Plaza Toro in The Gondoliers and Mother Goose in The Rakes Progress.
Adele makes her debut with Opera Queensland as Berta in The Barber of Seville in May 2008.