Jul 20th, 2018
Fun Fact: Producer Gabriel Pascal knocked on Bernard Shaw's door with only twelve shillings in his pocket and insisted he take Pygmalion from stage to screen. Shaw had refused any prior adaptations but made an agreement with Pascal twelve years earlier, while floating naked in the French Riviera, that he would only consider if Pascal was someday truly broke. And so, the story reached the world.
Target Audience: Everyone can relate to this production, it is both charming and hysterical and will triumph the cynics and the romantics, the smart and the smart-arse. It is truly marvelous!
Best Bit: Every second of it! The book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Bartlett Sher's direction, Michael Yeargan's elegant set design, the magnificent costumes by Catherine Zuber, the beautiful music by Frederick Loewe, and the world-class performances! This is theatre at its best!
Morning After Effect: Bernard Shaw-ly appreciates the success! (A thousand apologies Bernard, I couldn't resist the pun, Shaw-ly you understand!)
There is a certain air of sophistication at the Lincoln Center Theater and it is a treat to attend a production of any nature on these grounds, however tonight I felt exuberant as I hummed my way to the entrance "...all I want is a room somewhere..." I have a blurred memory as to when or how Eliza Doolittle captured my heart but that song is very dear to me as are many from this production. My Fair Lady, the musical adaptation of Bernard Shaw's famous play Pygmalion, first opened on Broadway in 1956 with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. While I wish I could say I was around for that I imagine that my memory stems from the film I saw as a child - not Gabriel Pascals' 1934 rendition but rather the 1964 technicolor adaptation titled My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn. Ironically, I at the LTC production sat next to a little girl and observed her being swept away by this classic production. It was loverly especially when she turned to her mom at intermission to ask for chocolate!
My Fair Lady is entirely British. To say I was delighted by this production would be a grave misrepresentation. The language is utterly delicious and shifts from splendid sophistication to gutter-chat, showcasing the divide between the aristocrats and the Londoners toiling on the streets. The humor is sharp and expresses the iconic British banter that still exists today, bitingly funny with a deadpan delivery. Set against the breath-taking set design by Michael Yeargan.
It is no surprise that British actor Harry Hadden-Paton's portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins is perfection. If ever you've known an old British man you will recognize the charm that somehow comes over you as you witness the blundering, complaining, stubborn nature of this specimen, enchanting you to giggles and then outright laughter. Hadden-Paton has the ability to drive you mad with his ridiculous Debbie Downer demeanor, and yet you cannot wait for him to return to the stage. He is electric and his frustrations regarding the demise of the English language soon become your very own. Suddenly you too are overcome by the need for everyone to be more proper and find yourself tilting your chin just a little further upright - dumbfounded that we live in the age of OMG and LOL. I adored him from the moment he began the famed song "Why Can't the English" and I could've watched him all night.
Lauren Ambrose (Eliza Doolittle) is magnetic and although she transitions from flower girl to lady, she presents an unwavering sense of strength and self-surety throughout. It was truly wonderful to observe her growth as she steps into her own voice, literally and figuratively! Ambrose is an outstanding actress and played this character with absolute commitment, commanding both accents, and delivering the music exquisitely. On top of the demanding accent work, she hits every comedic beat as well as the emotional notes. We soon learn that it is not Eliza in need of transformation but rather Higgins himself who needs to soften his heart and take his emotions on an elocution lesson.
Eliza Doolittle delivers the famous line that the only difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated. This was of course the premise for Bernard Shaw's play, offering commentary on the British class system - sadly this still rings true on both sides of the pond. Bernard Shaw's non-romantic tale was undoubtedly ahead of its time as it demands girls need not put up with a bully, insisting it is no match for a flower girl or lady. Doolittle is the exact counterfeit to her name and she indeed does it all, expanding herself first and thus affecting those around her. Something we can all aspire to do.
As I left the Lincoln Center Theater humming "...all I want is a room somewhere..." I thought, My Fair Lady has done it again!
View our show pages for more information about My Fair Lady, Vivian Beaumont Theater.
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