Review: Becoming Eliza at Downstairs at the Maj

Reviewed by Tatum Stafford


Anna O’Byrne is one of Australia’s most prolific sopranos, and her solo cabaret, “Becoming Eliza”, cements her reputation as a beautiful singer, writer and storyteller.


Held in the intimate venue Downstairs at the Maj, “Becoming Eliza” traces Anna’s journey from a young actress working many a survival job in London, to being cast in the iconic role of Eliza Doolittle at the Sydney Opera House – under the direction of Dame Julie Andrews, no less.


Anna’s writing of this cabaret is superb. Not a moment is overdone, or missed, and everything has been so meticulously written to ensure that text to song transitions are spot-on. Her accompanist for the evening did a great job following each moment and each song intro. Anna’s recounting of special one-on-one moments shared with Julie were particularly memorable and heartwarming.


The script is very tight, detailed and nuanced. The underscoring is gorgeous, and circles back to familiar motifs from “My Fair Lady”, that ties everything up very nicely. Anna is beautifully animated, and gives credence to every beat of the show, from the nerves she felt on opening night of the show, to the disappointment she went through when she was not cast in the role after her first round of lengthy auditions and callbacks.


Anna’s voice is absolutely beautiful; and soars on many classic Julie Andrews’ numbers, including songs from “Darling Lili”, “Mary Poppins”, and of course, “My Fair Lady”. Her vocals sounded fantastic in the venue, and her crafted setlist provided many moments for her range to be showcased; both vocally and emotionally.


This beautiful piece of work deserves big audiences, and is a loverly (pardon the pun) night out for fans of “My Fair Lady”, and also for lovers of theatre and cabaret. I hope many audiences around Australia, and the world, are fortunate enough to see it for themselves.

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