Updated: Jun 25
Watching a musical from the last row of a theatre as large as the London Coliseum (meant for the opera, really, and too big for theatre) killed the Bee’s experience. As you can see from the picture, the stage felt like it was a mile away and the actors looked like little stick figures.
It’s hard to feel immersed in what’s happening on stage if you’re that far away. The Bee’s mind wandered a lot, and that may not have happened if the performance were a little more in-her-face, loud and conspicuous.
But enough said about bad seats. You get what you pay for. The musical has a feel-good appeal, it’s the kind of thing you watch when you’re looking for a nice endearing character to like and root for, when you want to witness your own ability to wish for the best for someone. Eliza Doolittle is exactly like that.
The Professor is hilarious but not in a particularly refreshing way. That brand of Professor - the eccentric kind with an inability to empathise with fellow human beings and with an unbounded quest for knowledge and experimentation at the cost of hurting his experimental subject’s feelings - we’ve seen the kind plenty of times before. Sheldon Cooper comes to mind, although Professor Higgins isn’t that extreme. He elicits his fair share of laughs, he sings beautifully, and he does his part well.
As does Eliza. (spoiler) The transformation in her accent (both talking and singing) as she learns from Higgins is remarkable and the actress’ efforts are commendable.
However, once the Bee got used to the musical’s style of humour, things started to get just a tiny bit predictable. (Spoiler) Eliza’s desire for ‘more’ from Higgins was, well, understandable but inevitable. She was unable to just ‘go back to her old life’ once she was through with her lessons with the Professor, because she had obviously fallen for him or at least cultivated a sense of familiarity with him that felt uncomfortable to break away from. All that is very well understood and I can sympathise. But to blame Higgins for her feelings and to throw a fit of rage trying to elicit his sympathy or affection for her helplessness? It seemed childish, naive and pointless. The Bee found herself thinking, is Eliza going to realise she is beating a dead horse and move on? Or is the audience to endure these two characters bickering pointlessly for the remainder of the musical?
(More spoilers) The Professor stayed consistent in his character, especially in terms of his distaste for romantic partnerships with women, and did not allow his experience of training Eliza to change him. Although he’d gotten habituated to having her around and definitely missed her after she left, he couldn’t change enough to actually exhibit the kind of empathy and commitment needed to sustain a real relationship. Well, that sounded realistic to the Bee, who has frankly gotten tired of the clichéd ‘I didn’t like girls very much until I met the one and she changed me completely’ kind of male character. Higgins kept elements of his core even while coming to realise that Eliza had grown important to him. Feelings are complex! That, to the Bee, was refreshing and new.
(Major spoiler) The Bee was hoping and praying and biting her nails that Eliza wouldn’t be one of those women to overlook this man’s absolute childishness and lack of empathy, and go running back to the poor baby to be the lover (read: mother) he never had. And she didn’t. Yay for her, and yay for feminism! Not that the Bee has anything against the Professor - the Bee loved that character even more than Eliza - but there is a sort of poetic justice in people not being able to get away that easily with treating others badly. He is best left to his own devices, and he got what he deserved. If you don’t put yourself out there, if you never expose vulnerability or even sentimentality, you can’t expect unconditional love.
The music was lovely, as were the props and setting. All in all, it was a nice experience but ultimately a forgettable one for the Bee, as there was only a little novelty in the plot and the visuals were not particularly stunning (but they could have been had the Bee bought a better seat, but then again, why are seats SO expensive?).
Watched 9 May 2022 at the London Coliseum.