Interviews with Anna O’Byrne and Charles Edwards from My Fair Lady

Here is part two of the group interviews with actors Anna O’Byrne and Charles Edwards.

What: My Fair Lady media call
Where: Regent Theatre, Melbourne
When: 12th May, 2017

Playing til August in Melbourne before it heads to Sydney.
For more information and tickets, go to: myfairladymusical.com.au

Anna O’Byrne who plays Eliza Doolittle 

Anna on if the show has changed since it first opened
Yeah, little bits and pieces. We tightened it a little bit in Brisbane, which is where we’ve just been, and obviously we have a new leading man. But I have to say, it’s a slightly different show every night.”

 Anna – on the transformation of her character
“The beautiful thing about our show is the audience gets to see almost ever moment of her transformation. It’s not just like she goes off and then comes back on immediately as an elegant lady. It is a little bit different every night, get to enjoy playing with that and the humour, and the pathos of it.”

Anna – on meeting Dame Julie Andrews, Director of this My Fair Lady adaptation
“[I met her at] my first audition, so it was very daunting walking into the room for the first time, but she is so warm, generous and funny. She was at great pains to put everyone at ease, because as a performer she understands what it’s like and what we put ourselves through. Yes, absolutely [it was a dream to work with her]. As she is for so many people, she continues to be an idol, and now a mentor for me which is always, it’s surreal. That word is quite overused but I think in this circumstance that’s the one that I’m sticking with.”

“She was definitely the director of our show – so when I say the show is in viewed with her vision, that’s the complete truth, and we continue to get notes. She watches the archival recordings that come through and we get notes from her almost every week – which is signed off with Mum, because we all have to call her Mum, she calls us her second family.”

Anna – on living in England
“Before I came to do this role, I was doing a national tour in the UK. The amazing thing from an accent perspective, you go 50 miles down the road and the accent will be completely different in the UK, so that was highly illuminating for me! I’ve just been there in between our Brisbane and Melbourne seasons, my home is in London now, so it’s amazing to be walking down the same streets that Eliza would have been walking down.”

Anna – on being back at the Regent Theatre
“I performed here 5 or 6 years ago in a production called Love Never Dies, which is the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve got my old dressing room back – it’s very familiar to look out and see this glorious space – feels great to be back here at the Regent. The audiences love coming here because it is so glamorous and opulent and it’s a bit of a throwback. It’s what I imagine it was like going to the theatre 100 years ago.”

Anna – on being cast as Eliza
“It is an honour and I don’t take it lightly at all. I feel a great sense of responsibility, not just because of Julie but because this show is so beloved; these characters and story is so dear to people. Almost like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I do my very best to uphold Julie’s vision of the show. This show is filled with Julie’s spirit and it’s a great joy to perform it 8 shows a week.”

Anna – on working with Charles Edwards
“We got on really well from the off. We both feel really passionately about this show and these characters. We have a lot of strong ideas about things all the time. It’s wonderful to have a collaboration. We have the same sense of humour which is always very good (laughs).”

Anna – on the show being performed in 2017
When I was auditioning and then when I was cast, I did a lot of thinking about what we had to say about this show in 2017. Why are we doing it? Why My Fair Lady? Why now? But actually delving into the script, she’s a feminist, she’s so strong, she pulls herself up by her bootstraps, as Julie says, in search of a better life. She’s extremely pragmatic and determined, and it’s wonderful to play a character who I would like to be friends with really, whom I look up to. She has her own ideas and she says very clearly that she wouldn’t stay there if she didn’t want to. She stands up to [Professor Higgins] and he says some things that are on the edge of misogyny, but that’s important, these themes are really relevant today. If anyone can’t see that, I don’t know where you’ve been looking – so it’s wonderful to put something on stage that may make the audience think about themselves, their relationship to the world and what they’re willing to put up with.”

Anna – on Eliza’s relationship with her father
It’s interesting, strained. Of course, I’m playing opposite the wonderful Reg Livermore, so it’s a great joy on stage, if not slightly challenging for Eliza within the story.” (laughs)


Charles Edwards who plays Professor Higgins

Charles on his first trip to Melbourne
“I came to Melbourne years and years ago after school, when it was a thing. After school you go to Australia with some friends. We did that and we stayed in George Street, but I haven’t figured out which George Street it was. I worked on Collins Street in an office.”

Charles on the show
“My father had an old gramophone and loads of old LPs – one of which was the original Julie Andrews/Rex Harrison Broadway Recording. I used to listen to it religiously! I never saw the musical, until the movie some years later. But there was something about it, the beauty of the music. The marriage of text to music was so beautiful. For a young kid of that age, it was very intoxicating and particularly the wit of [Professor Higgins] and the speed of which he spoke and the way he half sung it/half spoke it, I just remember that was really clever.

“The response so far has been more than one can wish for. Standing ovations, the roars, it’s great. The love for this show is really tangible over each and every night. Higgins’ behaviour causes a lot of vocal reactions from the female viewers.”

“The wonderful thing about this show is it introducing it to younger audiences, and it is a classic, because it is so good. It is the music, as I was talking about, the blend of text and music is a perfect marriage. The music is very emotionally touching, uplifting, romantic, lush and beautifully played by the guys in the pit. It’s a very touching, entertaining, funny, evening out.”

Charles on being an actor coming to theatre
“It differs in many ways. That’s why I think the role is probably very good for someone who’s not used to musicals. I hope everyone will support me when I say, I think I’ve gotten used to it now, but initially, it was a challenge. Because of what I was saying earlier about Higgins, that his speech blends into song, that’s sort of representative of an actor unused to musicals approaching this particular role – you bleed into song as you go through it, and then you go back to speech again, so it’s a nice representation of how that feels for an actor to be in a musical. But there are rules, of course, different ways of doing things. You pick it up as you go along. I’ve learnt from that.”

Charles on changing the show each night and working with Anna
“You never want anything to become staged to set – of course it has to be set – but it’s nice to have the freedom to play and to reevaluate and check in with each other. It’s very rewarding. They’re such fantastic characters. Their relationship is so oblique and interesting.”

Charles on travel, theatre and 39 Steps
“There was a show called 39 Steps, which I think came here. It started in a little theatre in North London and I ended up playing it on Broadway, where it won two Tony awards. I went to the Tonys. It was just fantastic. I was there for six months playing that role, in a tweed suit. Funny enough. The rewards to see a tiny little show like that, which was very much the essence of the show being very homemade and a bit make do mend; it ended up as this huge worldwide hit, which was an extraordinary journey to be part of! Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury two years ago, I did in London and in the US and she’s another extraordinary Dame. I have travelled lots but I love it!”

Charles on Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey was great. It seems to me like a long time ago now, but it was great to be a part of, because again, it’s something that has taken off in a huge way. To be part of that tidal wave was very exciting. Everybody loves it or loathes it. I think they’re going to make a movie of it, but as far as I know I’m dead, so I won’t be in it. A telegraph arrived reporting that I’d been killed in a hideous incident.”

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