Leading actress of ‘80s recalls production’s first showing at Wellington

She was the lead actress in Wellington’s first production of My Fair Lady in 1982, and now Judy Burke will take a more relaxed approach as the play hits the stage again over the weekend.

Mrs Burke took on the role of cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, 36 years ago when the production first came to Wellington.

Led by David Thomson and Bill McKenzie formerly of Sydney the production was described as professional and comparable to that of theatre shows in Sydney.

Judy took centre stage alongside the likes of husband Peter Burke as Colonel Pickering, current co-director Noel Grimes as Freddy Eynsford-Hill and his wife Helen as Mrs Higgins. Helen is now the lead wardrobe lady for Wellington Amateur Theatre Society (WATS).

While Noel and Helen continue to play an active role in the WATS production, Mrs Burke has opted to enjoy the production from a spectator angle this time around. 

She will attend Sunday’s matinee show and is already full of praise for WATS in bringing the production back to life.

“I used to sing, I was a singer in the church and that’s how it became a joy for me to sing,” she said.

She recalled the roaring ‘80s as a time when theatre was an excuse for the public to dress-up and enjoy a classy event. 

“Theatre was a popular thing, shows always had full houses and on dinner night shows we would walk down a platform singing… it was a really beautiful thing,” Mrs Burke recalled.

“The final party we had after all those shows was the best fun I’d ever had in my life.

“My husband and I’d be walking home with the sun coming up.

“It was a special part of my life I’ll never forget, it was just lovely to have so much fun.” 

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