Former Eastenders Ian Beale actor Adam Woodyatt on making Sunderland Empire debut in My Fair Lady

It’s a long road from Eastenders to the ‘West End of the North’, but soap legend Adam Woodyatt says he’s looking forward to making his Sunderland Empire debut.

The actor, who rose to fame playing Ian Beale for more than 30 years in the hit BBC soap, is heading to Wearside in a sumptuous production of My Fair Lady which Can Cans into Sunderland Empire from February 1.

Adam plays Alfred P. Doolittle in Bartlett Sher’s critically-acclaimed and multi award-winning production and he says it’s great to be swapping TV for treading the boards.

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"I’m enjoying every minute of it, but then how could I not performing in this show, with its iconic songs - I couldn’t be happier with the opportunity,” he said.

Adam Woodyatt as Alfred P. Doolittle photo by Marc Brenner

"With TV, you can sometimes wait six weeks, three months for feedback on your performance, but you get instant feedback in the theatre, you know if you’ve got that funny line right because people laugh, you know if you’ve hit the right note because they applaud.

"It’s that shared, collective experience of being somewhere where everyone is applauding together, you can’t beat live theatre."

He added: “Even if people don’t know My Fair Lady the musical, they know the songs, they’re in our psyche, our consciousness, and everyone at some point must have seen the 1964 film, it’s on every Christmas and Easter.”

My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady”.

Adam Woodyatt as Alfred P. Doolittle with the company of My Fair Lady photo by Marc Brenner

It features an iconic score of tracks including: I Could Have Danced All Night, Get Me to the Church on Time, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, On the Street Where You Live, The Rain in Spain and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.

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"It’s a story that’s really stood the test of time, it’s ingrained into us,” said Adam. “I’m not sure how George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (the play on which My Fair Lady is based) was received in 1913, but it must have been a game changer. It was so ahead of its time.

"It’s about a strong woman who stands up to an oppressive and misogynistic man and that message from 1913 still stands today in 2023.”

This will be Adam’s first time in the city, but he says the Empire’s grand reputation goes before it and he’s looking forward to seeing the production come to life on its historic stage.

Adam Woodyatt as Alfred P. Doolittle with the company of My Fair Lady photo by Marc Brenner
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"It’s one of the country’s great theatres and this show needs a big theatre because it’s a beast of a show, so only certain theatres can take us,” he said. “I’ve not actually been to Sunderland before, but that’s what I love about touring: seeing new places.

"I came up to Newcastle last year in Looking Good Dead and rode my bike the long way into work, all through Annfield and Beamish. I also rode along Tynemouth, which was stunning.”

So after Ian was seen at fellow Eastenders legend Dot Cotton’s funeral in December, is there any return on the cards for the famous character?

"I’ve said from day one the door is open, but so are other doors so who knows,” said Adam. “There’s always speculation, but who knows what will happen.”

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Adam is joined on the My Fair Lady tour by Lesley Garrett as Mrs Pearce, Michael D. Xavier as Henry Higgins, Charlotte Kennedy as Eliza Doolittle and John Middleton as Colonel Pickering.

:: My Fair Lady is at Sunderland Empire from February 1-11, 2023. Tickets are available from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 7615 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland