Australian soprano Anna O’Byrne will take on the coveted role of Eliza Doolittle opposite English actor Alex Jennings as Henry Higgins in Opera Australia and John Frost’s revival of My Fair Lady. Directed by Julie Andrews, the production will be a replica of the original 1956 Broadway production which launched Andrews to stardom, recreating the exact design seen by audiences back in the ’50s.
Jennings is a three-time Olivier Award-winner, whose CV is packed with plays at the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2002 he played the role of Higgins on the West End, winning an Olivier Award. In 2010 he revisited the role in Paris (read his reflections on playing the part here), and most recently played Willy Wonka in the West End musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
O’Byrne has been a principal artist with the Victorian Opera playing Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera and Pamina in The Magic Flute. But her major musical theatre breakthrough came when she was cast as Christine in the Australian production Love Never Dies (pictured above), which was filmed for cinema and DVD release. Since then, she’s performed extensively in the UK, taking on the role of Christine in the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera. She’s currently touring the UK as Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls and released her debut album Dream last week.
O’Byrne and Jennings are joined by Reg Livermore (who played Higgins in Opera Australia’s last production) as Alfred Doolittle, theatre doyenne Robyn Nevin as Mrs Higgins, and pop-opera tenor Mark Vincent as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, who sings one of the show’s most popular songs On The Street Where You Live. David Whitney plays Karpathy, Tony Llewellyn-Jones plays Colonel Pickering and Deidre Rubenstein plays Mrs Pearce.
The ensemble is made up of Octavia Barron-Martin, Andrew Broadbent, Deborah Caddy, Elisa Colla, Zoy Frangos, Josh Gates, Alex Given, Matt Heyward, Glen Hogstrom, Matt Holly, Kate Maree Hoolihan, Georgina Hopson, Erin James, Hollie James, Todd Keys, James Lee, Vanessa Lewis, Allyce Martins, James Maxfield, Julia Mcrae, Holly Meegan, Joel Parnis, Jackie Rees, Greta Sherriff, David Sirianni, Sophie Viskich, Paul Whitely, Katherine Wiles and Karlis Zaid.
My Fair Lady is the latest in a series of musical co-productions between John Frost and Opera Australia, starting with the successful revival of South Pacific, led by Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes, and followed up by The King and I, and Anything Goes starring Caroline O’Connor. Musicals now make up a substantial chunk of Opera Australia’s ticket sales each year.