Ian Beale no more as actor Adam Woodyatt unrecognisable in My Fair Lady in Manchester

Report by ITV Granada Reports entertainment correspondent, Caroline Whitmore.

Former EastEnders actor Adam Woodyatt says nobody recognises him with the new beard he has grown for his role in a hit West End musical.

The actor, who played the character Ian Beale in the soap for almost 40 years, has swapped Albert Square for the stage production of My Fair Lady.

The critically-acclaimed musical is currently touring the UK and Ireland, making its final stop at Manchester's Palace Theatre for two weeks.

My Fair Lady is set in London in 1912 and tells the story of Cockney flower seller, Eliza Dolittle, who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins so she can pass as a lady.

Adam Woodyatt stars as Alfred P Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Credit: My Fair Lady UK & Ireland Tour

Adam stars as Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, alongside Outlander star Michael D Xavier, opera singer Lesley Garrett and Emmerdale’s John Middleton.

"Since I've had the beard, I don't get shouted at in the street," Adam told ITV News.

The original 1964 movie starred Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn and won eight Academy Awards, including that for best picture.

"There's some big boots to fill because, in the film and the original stage version, it was Stanley Holloway who played Alfred P. Doolittle," said Adam ahead of the first Manchester date.

"Everyone knows My Fair Lady. As soon as you hear the songs, you know them. They are just iconic songs."

Lesley Garrett stars as Mrs Pearce in My Fair Lady. Credit: My Fair Lady UK & Ireland tour

Opera singer and broadcaster Lesley Garrett stars alongside Adam, playing the iconic Mrs Pearce.

Lesley says it is an "absolute honour" to star in the show, describing it as "one of the best productions" she has ever been involved with in her career spanning four decades.

"I don't think I've ever been happier in a show in my life," she said. "Bartlett Sher is an amazing director but it is also the introduction of this Suffragette idea.

"It's about Eliza, who is as strong, but it is also Mrs Pearce and Mrs Higgins.

"They are strong, independent, older women and it gives me the opportunity to demonstrate how women like me have come through the 20th and 21st century.

"We're still fighting for women's rights now."

My Fair Lady is at the Palace Theatre until the 1 April 2023.

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