Based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion, comes the unforgettable and much-loved musical about transformation, patronage, gender politics and class, My Fair Lady is now on tour at the Buell Theatre in Denver. With a book and memorable lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and unforgettable music by Frederick Loewe, this is the story that follows a young Cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, who takes speech lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, a phonetician. Mr. Higgins enters into a wager, that within a short space of six months’ time, he will pass young Eliza off as a lady. Despite his cynical nature and difficulty with any understanding of women, Higgins can’t help but fall in love with her.
It is Edwardian England, and Eliza Doolittle is a young flower seller, with an extremely pronounced Cockney accent, living in London. Professor Henry Higgins, the noted phonetician, encounters Eliza at Covent Garden Market and laments the utter vulgarity of her dialect. Higgins also meets fellow linguist Colonel Pickering, and invites him to stay as his houseguest, while Eliza and her friends wonder what it would be to live a life ease and comfort. So, Eliza goes to Higgins’s house, seeking elocution lessons and hoping to be taken on as a flower shop assistant. Higgins and Pickering enter into a wager, that, within six months, Higgins will pass Eliza off as a proper lady, and so, Eliza becomes part of Higgins’s household.
Though Higgins sees himself as a kind-hearted man, others see him as self-absorbed and misogynistic, and Eliza must endure his tyrannical speech tutoring. As Higgins is about to call off the wager, Eliza manages to recite one of her diction exercises in perfect upper-class style and is ready for her first public try-out at the Royal Ascot Racecourse. There Eliza shocks everyone when in her excitement watching a horse race, she forgets herself, and reverts to foul language. But she also captures the heart of Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Higgins is ready and sets his final test; Eliza is to pass as a lady at the Embassy Ball. At the ball, all the ladies and gentlemen admire her, and the Queen of Transylvania invites her to dance with the prince. Higgins allows Zoltan Karpathy, a Hungarian phonetician, to dance with Eliza, whereby Karpathy attempts to discover Eliza’s origins, and eventually declares Eliza to be a Hungarian princess; the ball is a success.
Pickering and Higgins revel in their triumph but fail to credit Eliza for her part in the success, and she is insulted at receiving no recognition, packs up and leaves the Higgins house. As she leaves, she sees Freddy, who tells her how much he loves her, however, she tells him that she has heard enough words; he should show her his meaning of love. Eliza and Freddy return to Covent Garden, where she finds she no longer feels at home there. Her father tells her that he has received a surprise bequest from an American millionaire, raising him to middle-class respectability, but now must marry his lover. Meanwhile, Higgins despondently visits his mother, where he finds Eliza, who declares she no longer needs Higgins, and as he walks home dejectedly, he realizes he’s grown attached to Eliza, and at home he sentimentally reviews the recording he made the day he and Eliza met. Eliza suddenly appears in his home. In suppressed joy at their reunion, Professor Higgins scoffs and asks, “Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?”
The musical’s 1956 Broadway production was a notable critical and popular success, winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, it set a new record for the longest run of any musical on Broadway at that time and was followed by a hit London production. Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews starred in both productions. Many revivals have followed, and the 1964 film also featured Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle. Other notable actors and actresses appearing in My Fair Lady over the years include – Audrey Hepburn, Dianna Rigg, and Vanessa Redgrave.
My Fair Lady is based on the 1913 play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. This Broadway revival production by Lincoln Center Theater and Nederlander Presentations Inc. officially opened in 2018 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, directed by Bartlett Sher with choreography by Christopher Gattelli, scenic design by Michael Yeargan, costume design by Catherine Zuber and lighting design by Donald Holder.
The show was nominated for ten Tony Awards winning one for Best Costume Design in a Musical, It also won two Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Musical and Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical, A Drama League Award for Outstanding Revival of a Broadway Musical and five Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Actress, Outstanding Featured Actor, Outstanding Director and Outstanding Costume Design, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.
Review by Mark Shenton at the Vivian Beaumont Theater for The Stage.
“Director Bartlett Sher’s last spectacular revival at this address was The King and I, which is preparing to transfer to the London Palladium. He is now helming a Rolls Royce production of My Fair Lady, in Broadway’s fourth revival of the title since the original production. It positively glows with class, shimmering with confidence and oozing with delight. But Sher also maintains the show’s pertinent astringency, as it portrays how Professor Henry Higgins – a stubborn mule of a confirmed bachelor linguist who treats Eliza Doolittle as little more than a project to be manipulated and re-trained – is wrong-footed when she finally melts his own surprised heart. British actor Harry Hadden-Paton brings a nicely youthful yet appropriately flummoxed air to the role, and in what appears to be his first musical, carries the songs with conviction, too.”Mark Shenton
“Plush and thrilling! Illuminated with new stars.” – The New York Times.
“Thrilling! Glorious and better than it ever was! A marvelous and transformative revival.” – The New York Times.
“Enthralling! Bartlett Sher’s glowing revival proves that a beloved musical from another era can keep on kicking, as long as it’s got its eyes wide open.” – New York Magazine/Vulture
“A thing of beauty. A sumptuous new revival of the most perfect musical of all time. A masterful piece of entertainment.” – Entertainment Weekly
Lerner and Loewe’s award-winning story of a cockney flower girl transformed into an elegant lady is widely considered one of the greatest musicals of all time.