My Fair Lady
Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and Music by Frederick Loewe
Broadway Original Production – Opening Night Mar 15, 1956 Closing Sep 29, 1962
Total Performances 2717
Broadhurst Theatre, New York, NY
Broadway Theatre, New York, NY
Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York, NY
Broadway 1st Preview Mar 19, 1976 Opening Night Mar 25, 1976 Closing Feb 20, 1977 -Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
St. James Theatre, New York, NY
Total Previews 7 and Total Performances 377
Broadway 1st Preview Aug 14, 1981 Opening Night Aug 18, 1981 – Closing Nov 29, 1981 – Uris Theatre
Total Previews 4 and Total Performances 120
Broadway 1st Preview Nov 26, 1993 Opening Night Dec 9, 1993 Closing May 1, 1994 – Virginia Theatre
Total Previews 16 Total Performances 165
Broadway 1st Preview Mar 15, 2018 Opening Night Apr 19, 2018 – Vivian Beaumont Theatre
Total Previews 39 and Total Performances 149 as of Aug 26, 2018
My Fair Lady is a musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady. The original Broadway and London shows starred Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews.
The musical’s 1956 Broadway production was a notable critical and popular success. It set a record for the longest run of any show on Broadway up to that time. It was followed by a hit London production, a popular film version, and numerous revivals. My Fair Lady has frequently been called “the perfect musical”.
On a rainy night in Edwardian London, opera patrons are waiting for cabs under the arches of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, runs into a young man called Freddy. She admonishes him for spilling her bunches of violets in the mud, but she cheers up after selling one to an older gentleman. She then flies into an angry outburst when a man copying down her speech is pointed out to her. The man explains that he studies phonetics and can identify anyone’s origin from their accent. He laments Eliza’s dreadful speech, asking why so many English people don’t speak properly and explaining his theory that this is what truly separates social classes, rather than looks or money (“Why Can’t the English?”). He declares that in six months he could turn Eliza into a lady by teaching her to speak properly. The older gentleman introduces himself as Colonel Pickering, a linguist who has studied Indian dialects. The phoneticist introduces himself as Henry Higgins, and, as they have both always wanted to meet each other, Higgins invites Pickering to stay at his home in London. He distractedly throws his change into Eliza’s basket, and she and her friends wonder what it would be like to live a comfortable life (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”).
Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle, and his drinking companions, Harry and Jamie, all dustmen, stop by the next morning. He is searching for money for a drink, and Eliza shares her profits with him (“With a Little Bit of Luck”). Pickering and Higgins are discussing vowels at Higgins’ home when Mrs Pearce, the housekeeper, informs Higgins that a young woman with a ghastly accent has come to see him. It is Eliza, who has come to take speech lessons so that she can get a job as an assistant in a florist’s shop. Pickering wagers that Higgins cannot make good on his claim, and volunteers to pay for Eliza’s lessons. An intensive makeover of Eliza’s speech, manners and dress begins in preparation for her appearance at the Embassy Ball. Higgins sees himself as a kind hearted, patient man who cannot get along with women (“I’m an Ordinary Man”). To others he appears self-absorbed and misogynistic.
Alfred Doolittle is informed that his daughter has been taken in by Professor Higgins, and considers that he might be able to make a little money from the situation (“With a Little Bit of Luck” [Reprise]).
Doolittle arrives at Higgins’ house the next morning, claiming that Higgins is compromising Eliza’s virtue. Higgins is impressed by the man’s natural gift for language and brazen lack of moral values. He and Doolittle agree that Eliza can continue to take lessons and live at Higgins’ house if Higgins gives Doolittle £5 for a spree. Higgins flippantly recommends Doolittle to an American millionaire who has written to Higgins seeking a lecturer on moral values. Meanwhile, Eliza endures speech tutoring, endlessly repeating phrases like “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen” (initially, the only “h” she aspirates is in “hever”) and “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” (to practice the “long a” phoneme). Frustrated, she dreams of different ways to kill Higgins, from sickness to drowning to a firing squad (“Just You Wait”). The servants lament the hard “work” Higgins does (“The Servants’ Chorus”). Just as they give up, Eliza suddenly recites “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” in perfect upper-class style. Higgins, Eliza, and Pickering happily dance around Higgins’ study (“The Rain in Spain”). Thereafter she speaks with impeccable Received Pronunciation. Mrs Pearce, the housekeeper, insists that Eliza go to bed; she declares she is too excited to sleep (“I Could Have Danced All Night”).
For her first public tryout, Higgins takes Eliza to his mother’s box at Ascot Racecourse (“Ascot Gavotte”). Henry’s mother reluctantly agrees to help Eliza make conversation, following Henry’s advice that Eliza should stick to two subjects: the weather and everybody’s health. Eliza makes a good impression at first with her polite manners but later shocks everyone when she forgets herself while watching a race and reverts to foul language. She does, however, capture the heart of Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the young man she ran into in the opening scene. Freddy calls on Eliza that evening, but she refuses to see him. He declares that he will wait for her as long as necessary in the street outside Higgins’ house (“On the Street Where You Live”).
Eliza’s final test requires her to pass as a lady at the Embassy Ball, and after weeks of preparation, she is ready. All the ladies and gentlemen at the ball admire her, and the Queen of Transylvania invites her to dance with her son, the prince (“Embassy Waltz”). Eliza then dances with Higgins. A rival and former student of Higgins, a Hungarian phoneticist named Zoltan Karpathy, is employed by the hostess to discover Eliza’s origins through her speech. Though Pickering and his mother caution him not to, Higgins allows Karpathy to dance with Eliza.
The event is revealed to have been a success, with Karpathy having concluded that Eliza is “not only Hungarian, but of royal blood. She is a princess!” After the ball, Pickering flatters Higgins on his triumph, and Higgins expresses his pleasure that the experiment is now over (“You Did It”). The episode leaves Eliza feeling used and abandoned. Higgins completely ignores Eliza until he mislays his slippers. He asks her where they are, and she lashes out at him, leaving the clueless professor mystified by her ingratitude. When Eliza decides to leave Higgins, he insults her in frustration and storms off. Eliza cries as she prepares to leave (“Just You Wait” [Reprise]). She finds Freddy still waiting outside (“On the Street Where You Live” [Reprise]). He begins to tell her how much he loves her, but she cuts him off, telling him that she has heard enough words; if he really loves her, he should show it (“Show Me”). She and Freddy return to Covent Garden, where her friends do not recognise her with her newly-refined bearing (“The Flower Market/Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” [Reprise]). By chance, her father is there as well, dressed in a fine suit. He explains that he received a surprise bequest of £4000 a year from the American millionaire, which has raised him to middle-class respectability, and now must marry Eliza’s “stepmother”, the woman with whom he has been living for many years. Eliza sees that she no longer belongs in Covent Garden, and she and Freddy depart. Doolittle and his friends have one last spree before the wedding (“Get Me to the Church on Time”).
Higgins awakens the next morning to find that, without Eliza, he has tea instead of coffee, and cannot find his own files. He wonders why she left after the triumph at the ball and concludes that men (especially himself) are far superior to women (“A Hymn to Him”). Pickering, becoming annoyed with Higgins, leaves to stay with his friend at the Home Office. Higgins seeks his mother’s advice and finds Eliza having tea with her. Higgins’ mother leaves Higgins and Eliza together. Eliza explains that Higgins has always treated her as a flower girl, but she learned to be a lady because Pickering treated her as one. Higgins claims he treated her the same way that Pickering did because both Higgins and Pickering treat all women alike. Eliza accuses him of wanting her only to fetch and carry for him, saying that she will marry Freddy because he loves her. She declares she no longer needs Higgins, saying she was foolish to think she did (“Without You”). Higgins is struck by Eliza’s spirit and independence and wants her to stay with him, but she tells him that he will not see her again.
As Higgins walks home, he realises he has grown attached to Eliza (“I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”). He cannot bring himself to confess that he loves her, and insists to himself that if she marries Freddy and then comes back to him, he will not accept her. But he finds it difficult to imagine being alone again. He reviews the recording he made of the morning Eliza first came to him for lessons. He hears his own harsh words: “She’s so deliciously low! So horribly dirty!” Then the phonograph turns off, and a real voice speaks in a Cockney accent: “I washed me face an’ ‘ands before I come, I did”. It is Eliza, standing in the doorway, tentatively returning to him. The musical ends on an ambiguous moment of possible reconciliation between teacher and pupil, as Higgins slouches and asks, “Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?”
Main Characters – Original Broadway Cast
The original cast of the Broadway stage production:
Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller – Julie Andrews
Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics – Rex Harrison
Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s father, a dustman – Stanley Holloway
Colonel Hugh Pickering, Henry Higgins’s friend and fellow phoneticist – Robert Coote
Mrs. Higgins, Henry’s socialite mother – Cathleen Nesbitt
Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a young socialite and Eliza’s suitor – John Michael King
Mrs. Pearce, Higgins’s housekeeper – Philippa Bevans
Zoltan Karpathy, Henry Higgins’s former student and rival – Christopher Hewett
In the mid-1930s, film producer Gabriel Pascal acquired the rights to produce film versions of several of George Bernard Shaw’s plays, Pygmalion among them. However, Shaw, having had a bad experience with The Chocolate Soldier, a Viennese operetta based on his play Arms and the Man, refused permission for Pygmalion to be adapted into a musical. After Shaw died in 1950, Pascal asked lyricist Alan Jay Lerner to write the musical adaptation. Lerner agreed, and he and his partner Frederick Loewe began work. But they quickly realised that the play violated several key rules for constructing a musical: the main story was not a love story, there was no subplot or secondary love story, and there was no place for an ensemble. Many people, including Oscar Hammerstein II, who, with Richard Rodgers, had also tried his hand at adapting Pygmalion into a musical and had given up, told Lerner that converting the play to a musical was impossible, so he and Loewe abandoned the project for two years.
During this time, the collaborators separated and Gabriel Pascal died. Lerner had been trying to musicalize Li’l Abner when he read Pascal’s obituary and found himself thinking about Pygmalion again. When he and Loewe reunited, everything fell into place. All the insurmountable obstacles that had stood in their way two years earlier disappeared when the team realised that the play needed few changes apart from (according to Lerner) “adding the action that took place between the acts of the play”. They then excitedly began writing the show. However, Chase Manhattan Bank was in charge of Pascal’s estate, and the musical rights to Pygmalion were sought both by Lerner and Loewe and by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whose executives called Lerner to discourage him from challenging the studio. Loewe said, “We will write the show without the rights, and when the time comes for them to decide who is to get them, we will be so far ahead of everyone else that they will be forced to give them to us.” For five months Lerner and Loewe wrote, hired technical designers, and made casting decisions. The bank, in the end, granted them the musical rights.
Lerner settled on the title My Fair Lady, relating both to one of Shaw’s provisional titles for Pygmalion, Fair Eliza, and to the final line of every verse of the nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down”. Recalling that the Gershwins’ 1925 musical Tell Me More had been titled My Fair Lady in its out-of-town tryout, and also had a musical number under that title, Lerner made a courtesy call to Ira Gershwin, alerting him to the use of the title for the Lerner and Loewe musical.
Noël Coward was the first to be offered the role of Henry Higgins, but he turned it down, suggesting the producers cast Rex Harrison instead. After much deliberation, Harrison agreed to accept the part. Mary Martin was an early choice for the role of Eliza Doolittle, but declined the role. Young actress Julie Andrews was “discovered” and cast as Eliza after the show’s creative team went to see her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend. Moss Hart agreed to direct after hearing only two songs. The experienced orchestrators Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J. Lang were entrusted with the arrangements, and the show quickly went into rehearsal.
The musical’s script used several scenes that Shaw had written especially for the 1938 film version of Pygmalion, including the Embassy Ball sequence and the final scene of the 1938 film rather than the ending for Shaw’s original play. The montage showing Eliza’s lessons was also expanded, combining both Lerner’s and Shaw’s dialogue. The artwork on the original playbill (and the sleeve of the cast recording) is by Al Hirschfeld, who drew the playwright Shaw as a heavenly puppe tmaster pulling the strings on the Henry Higgins character, while Higgins in turn attempts to control Eliza Doolittle.
Original Broadway Production
The musical had its pre-Broadway tryout at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre. At the first preview Rex Harrison, who was unaccustomed to singing in front of a live orchestra, “announced that under no circumstances would he go on that night…with those thirty-two interlopers in the pit”. He locked himself in his dressing room and came out little more than an hour before curtain time. The whole company had been dismissed but were recalled, and opening night was a success. In 1973, on an episode of her Emmy Award-winning ABC-TV variety series, Julie Andrews recalled that during the New Haven tryout, one of the songs written for the show, “Say A Prayer For Me Tonight” was dropped and then used two years later for the 1958 MGM musical Gigi. My Fair Lady then played for four weeks at the Erlanger Theatre in Philadelphia, beginning on February 15, 1956.
The musical premiered on Broadway March 15, 1956, at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City. It transferred to the Broadhurst Theatre and then The Broadway Theatre, where it closed on September 29, 1962, after 2,717 performances, a record at the time. Moss Hart directed and Hanya Holm was choreographer. In addition to stars Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stanley Holloway, the original cast included Robert Coote, Cathleen Nesbitt, John Michael King, and Reid Shelton. Harrison was replaced by Edward Mulhare in November 1957 and Sally Ann Howes replaced Andrews in February 1958.
The Original Cast Recording, released on April 2, 1956, went on to become the best-selling album in the country in 1956.
Original London Production
The West End production, in which Harrison, Andrews, Coote, and Holloway reprised their roles, opened on April 30, 1958, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where it ran for five and a half years (2,281 performances). Edwardian musical comedy star Zena Dare made her last appearance in the musical as Mrs. Higgins. Leonard Weir played Freddy. Harrison left the London cast in March 1959, followed by Andrews in August 1959 and Holloway in October 1959.
As was its due, the London production was recorded, on February 1,1959 in stereo, and an album released. (The original Broadway cast album had been a mono recording.)
Revivals – 1970s
The first revival opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway on March 25, 1976, and ran there until December 5, 1976; it then transferred to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, running from December 9, 1976, until it closed on February 20, 1977, after a total of 377 performances and 7 previews. The director was Jerry Adler, with choreography by Crandall Diehl, based on the original choreography by Hanya Holm. Ian Richardson starred as Higgins, with Christine Andreas as Eliza, George Rose as Alfred P. Doolittle and Robert Coote recreating his role as Pickering. Both Richardson and Rose were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, with the award going to Rose.
A London revival opened at the Adelphi Theatre in October 1979, with Tony Britton as Higgins, Liz Robertson as Eliza, Dame Anna Neagle as Higgins’ mother, Peter Bayliss, Richard Caldicot and Peter Land. The revival was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by the author, Alan Jay Lerner. A national tour was directed by Robin Midgley. Gillian Lynne choreographed. Britton and Robertson were both nominated for Olivier Awards.
Broadway Revivals – 1981 and 1993
Another Broadway revival of the original production opened at the Uris Theatre on August 18, 1981, and closed on November 29, 1981, after 120 performances and 4 previews. Rex Harrison recreated his role as Higgins, with Jack Gwillim, Milo O’Shea, and Cathleen Nesbitt, at 93 years old reprising her role as Mrs. Higgins. The revival co-starred Nancy Ringham as Eliza. The director was Patrick Garland, with choreography by Crandall Diehl, recreating the original Hanya Holm dances.
A new revival directed by Howard Davies opened at the Virginia Theatre on December 9, 1993, and closed on May 1, 1994, after 165 performances and 16 previews. The cast starred Richard Chamberlain, Melissa Errico and Paxton Whitehead. Julian Holloway, son of Stanley Holloway, recreated his father’s role of Alfred P. Doolittle. Donald Saddler was the choreographer.
London Revival – 2001 Hollywood Bowl 2003 Production
Cameron Mackintosh produced a new production on March 15, 2001, at the Royal National Theatre, which transferred to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on July 21. Directed by Trevor Nunn, with choreography by Matthew Bourne, the musical starred Martine McCutcheon as Eliza and Jonathan Pryce as Higgins, with Dennis Waterman as Alfred P. Doolittle. This revival won three Olivier Awards: Outstanding Musical Production, Best Actress in a Musical (Martine McCutcheon) and Best Theatre Choreographer (Matthew Bourne), with Anthony Ward receiving a nomination for Set Design. In December 2001, Joanna Riding took over the role of Eliza, and in May 2002, Alex Jennings took over as Higgins, both winning Olivier Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical respectively in 2003. In March 2003, Anthony Andrews and Laura Michelle Kelly took over the roles until the show closed on August 30, 2003.
A UK tour of this production began September 28, 2005. The production starred Amy Nuttall and Lisa O’Hare as Eliza, Christopher Cazenove as Henry Higgins, Russ Abbot and Gareth Hale as Alfred Doolittle, and Honor Blackman and Hannah Gordon as Mrs. Higgins. The tour ended August 12, 2006.
In 2003 a production of the musical at the Hollywood Bowl starred John Lithgow as Henry Higgins, Melissa Errico as Eliza Doolittle, Roger Daltrey as Alfred P. Doolittle and Paxton Whitehead as Colonel Pickering.
Broadway – 2018 Revival
Lincoln Center Theater and Nederlander Presentations Inc. announced plans to mount a new Broadway revival in 2018. The revival began previews on March 15, 2018, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and officially opened on April 19, 2018. It is 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 cast includes Lauren Ambrose as Eliza, Harry Hadden-Paton as Professor Henry Higgins, Diana Rigg as Mrs. Higgins, Norbert Leo Butz as Alfred P. Doolittle, Allan Corduner as Colonel Pickering, Jordan Donica as Freddy, and Linda Mugleston as Mrs. Pearce. It was announced on August 2, 2018 that Rosemary Harris will replace Rigg as Mrs. Higgins from September 11, 2018. On August 23, 2018 it was announced that Laura Benanti will replace Ambrose as Eliza for a limited engagement from October 23, 2018 to February 17, 2019.
Other Major Productions
A German translation of My Fair Lady opened on October 1, 1961, at the Theater des Westens in Berlin, starring Karin Hübner and Paul Hubschmid (and conducted, as was the Broadway opening, by Franz Allers). Coming at the height of Cold War tensions, just weeks after the closing of the East Berlin–West Berlin border and the erection of the Berlin Wall, this was the first staging of a Broadway musical in Berlin since World War II. As such it was seen as a symbol of West Berlin’s cultural renaissance and resistance. Lost attendance from East Berlin (now no longer possible) was partly made up by a “musical air bridge” of flights bringing in patrons from West Germany, and the production was embraced by Berliners, running for two years.
New York Philharmonic – 2007 Concert and US Tour
In 2007 the New York Philharmonic held a full-costume concert presentation of the musical. The concert had a four-day engagement lasting from March 7–10 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. It starred Kelsey Grammer as Higgins, Kelli O’Hara as Eliza, Charles Kimbrough as Pickering, and Brian Dennehy as Alfred Doolittle. Marni Nixon played Mrs. Higgins; Nixon had provided the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in the film version.
A U.S. tour of Mackintosh’s 2001 West End production ran from September 12, 2007, to June 22, 2008. The production starred Christopher Cazenove as Higgins, Lisa O’Hare as Eliza, Walter Charles as Pickering, Tim Jerome as Alfred Doolittle and Nixon as Mrs. Higgins, replacing Sally Ann Howes.
Australian – 2008 Tour
An Australian tour produced by Opera Australia commenced in May 2008. The production starred Reg Livermore as Higgins, Taryn Fiebig as Eliza, Robert Grubb as Alfred Doolittle and Judi Connelli as Mrs Pearce. John Wood took the role of Alfred Doolittle in Queensland, and Richard E. Grant played the role of Henry Higgins at the Theatre Royal, Sydney.
Paris – 2010 Revival
A new production was staged by Robert Carsen at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris for a limited 27-performance run, opening December 9, 2010, and closing January 2, 2011. It was presented in English. The costumes were designed by Anthony Powell and the choreography was by Lynne Page. The cast was as follows: Sarah Gabriel / Christine Arand (Eliza Doolittle), Alex Jennings (Henry Higgins), Margaret Tyzack (Mrs. Higgins), Nicholas Le Prevost (Colonel Pickering), Donald Maxwell (Alfred Doolittle), and Jenny Galloway (Mrs. Pearce).
Sheffield – 2012 Production
A new production of My Fair Lady opened at Sheffield Crucible on December 13, 2012. Dominic West played Henry Higgins, and Carly Bawden played Eliza Doolittle. Sheffield Theatres’ Artistic Director Daniel Evans was the director. The production ran until January 26, 2013.
Australian – 2016 Production
The Gordon Frost Organisation, together with Opera Australia, presented a production at the Sydney Opera House from August 30 to November 5, 2016. It was directed by Dame Julie Andrews and featured the set and costume designs of the original 1956 production by Oliver Smith and Cecil Beaton. The production sold more tickets than any other in the history of the Sydney Opera House. The show is then planned to tour to Brisbane from March 12 and Melbourne from May 11. The show’s opening run in Sydney was so successful that in November 2016, ticket pre-sales were released for a re-run in Sydney, with the extra shows scheduled between August 24 and September 10, 2017, at the Capitol Theatre.
The cast featured Alex Jennings as Henry Higgins (later Charles Edwards), Anna O’Byrne as Eliza Doolittle (later Elisa Colla), Reg Livermore as Alfred P. Doolittle, Robyn Nevin as Mrs. Higgins (later Pamela Rabe), Mark Vincent as Freddy Eynsford-Hill (later Joel Parnis), Tony Llewellyn-Jones as Colonel Pickering, Deidre Rubenstein as Mrs. Pearce, and David Whitney as Karpathy (later Glen Hogstrom).
According to Geoffrey Block, “Opening night critics immediately recognized that My Fair Lady fully measured up to the Rodgers and Hammerstein model of an integrated musical…Robert Coleman…wrote ‘The Lerner-Loewe songs are not only delightful, they advance the action as well. They are ever so much more than interpolations, or interruptions.'” The musical opened to “unanimously glowing reviews, one of which said ‘Don’t bother reading this review now. You’d better sit right down and send for those tickets…’ Critics praised the thoughtful use of Shaw’s original play, the brilliance of the lyrics, and Loewe’s well-integrated score.”
A sampling of praise from critics, excerpted from a book form of the musical, published in 1956.
“My Fair Lady is wise, witty, and winning. In short, a miraculous musical.” Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune.
“A felicitous blend of intellect, wit, rhythm and high spirits. A masterpiece of musical comedy … a terrific show.” Robert Coleman, New York Daily Mirror.
“Fine, handsome, melodious, witty and beautifully acted … an exceptional show.” George Jean Nathan, New York Journal American.
“Everything about My Fair Lady is distinctive and distinguished.” John Chapman, New York Daily News.
“Wonderfully entertaining and extraordinarily welcomed … meritorious in every department.” Wolcott Gibbs, The New Yorker.
“One of the ‘loverliest’ shows imaginable … a work of theatre magic.” John Beaufort, The Christian Science Monitor.
“An irresistible hit.” Variety.
“One of the best musicals of the century.” Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times.
The reception from Shavians was more mixed, however. Eric Bentley, for instance, called it “a terrible treatment of Mr. Shaw’s play, [undermining] the basic idea [of the play]”, even though he acknowledged it as “a delightful show”.
Principal Roles and Casting History
|West End Revival
|West End Revival
|Eliza Doolittle||Christine Andreas||Liz Robertson||Nancy Ringham||Melissa Errico||Martine McCutcheon||Melissa Errico||Lauren Ambrose|
|Henry Higgins||Ian Richardson||Tony Britton||Rex Harrison||Richard Chamberlain||Jonathan Pryce||John Lithgow||Harry Hadden-Paton|
|Alfred P. Doolittle||George Rose||Peter Bayliss||Milo O’Shea||Julian Holloway||Dennis Waterman||Roger Daltrey||Norbert Leo Butz|
|Mrs. Higgins||Cathleen Nesbitt||Zena Dare||Brenda Forbes||Anna Neagle||Cathleen Nesbitt||Dolores Sutton||Caroline Blakiston||Rosemary Harris||Diana Rigg|
|Colonel Hugh Pickering||Richard Caldicot||Jack Gwillim||Paxton Whitehead||Nicholas Le Prevost||Paxton Whitehead||Allan Corduner|
|Freddy Eynsford-Hill||John Michael King||Leonard Weir||Jerry Lanning||Peter Land||Nicholas Wyman||Robert Sella||Mark Umbers||Kevin Early||Jordan Donica|
|Mrs. Pearce||Philippa Bevans||Betty Woolfe||Sylvia O’Brien||Betty Paul||Marian Baer||Glynis Bell||Patsy Rowlands||Lauri Johnson||Linda Mugleston|
|Zoltan Karpathy||Christopher Hewett||Max Oldaker||John Clarkson||Kalman Glass||Jack Sevier||James Young||Sevan Stephan||Manu Narayan|
Awards and Nominations
Original Broadway Production
|1956||Theatre World Award||Outstanding New York City Stage Debut Performance||John Michael King||Won|
|1957||Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Rex Harrison||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Julie Andrews||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Robert Coote||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Moss Hart||Won|
|Best Choreography||Hanya Holm||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||Oliver Smith||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Cecil Beaton||Won|
|Best Conductor and Musical Director||Franz Allers||Won|
1976 Broadway Revival
Sources: BroadwayWorld Drama Desk
|1976||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Ian Richardson||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Ian Richardson||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||George Rose||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Jerry Adler||Nominated|
1979 London Revival
Source: Olivier Awards
|1979||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Tony Britton||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Liz Robertson||Nominated|
1981 Broadway Revival
|1982||Tony Award||Best Revival||Nominated|
1993 Broadway Revival
Source: Drama Desk
|1993||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Melissa Errico||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Patricia Zipprodt||Nominated|
2001 London Revival
Source: Olivier Awards
|2002||Laurence Olivier Award||Outstanding Musical Production||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Jonathan Pryce||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Martine McCutcheon||Won|
|Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Nicholas Le Prevost||Nominated|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Matthew Bourne||Won|
|Best Set Design||Anthony Ward||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||David Hersey||Nominated|
|2003||Best Actor in a Musical||Alex Jennings||Won|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Joanna Riding||Won|
2018 Broadway Revival
|2018||Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Harry Hadden-Paton||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Lauren Ambrose||Nominated|
|Best Featured Actor in a Musical||Norbert Leo Butz||Nominated|
|Best Featured Actress in a Musical||Diana Rigg||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Bartlett Sher||Nominated|
|Best Choreography||Christopher Gattelli||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design in a Musical||Michael Yeargan||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design in a Musical||Donald Holder||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design in a Musical||Catherine Zuber||Won|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Harry Hadden-Paton||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Diana Rigg||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Bartlett Sher||Nominated|
|Costume Design for a Musical||Catherine Zuber||Won|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Revival of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical||Won|
|Distinguished Performance Award†||Lauren Ambrose||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Harry Hadden-Paton||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Lauren Ambrose||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Norbert Leo Butz||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Bartlett Sher||Won|
|Outstanding Choreography||Christopher Gattelli||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design (Play or Musical)||Michael Yeagan||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design (Play or Musical)||Catherine Zuber||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Design (Play or Musical)||Marc Salzberg||Nominated|
†Norbert Leo Butz was ineligible for this award for his performance as Alfred Doolittle, as he had already won the award in a previous year. The Drama League gave Butz recognition for his work, stating, “[t]he Drama League also wishes to acknowledge the previous recipients of the Distinguished Performance Award who appeared in Broadway or Off-Broadway productions this season. As the Award can only be won once in a performer’s lifetime, they are ineligible to be nominated; however, their exemplary work is recognized and applauded.”
Sources: BroadwayWorld TheatreWorldAwards
An Oscar-winning film version was made in 1964, directed by George Cukor and with Harrison again in the part of Higgins. The casting of Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews as Eliza was controversial, partly because theatregoers regarded Andrews as perfect for the part and partly because Hepburn’s singing voice was dubbed (by Marni Nixon). Jack L. Warner, the head of Warner Bros., which produced the film, wanted “a star with a great deal of name recognition”, but since Julie Andrews did not have any film experience, he thought a movie with her would not be as successful. (Andrews went on to star in Mary Poppins that same year for which she won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Actress.) Lerner in particular disliked the film version of the musical, thinking it did not live up to the standards of Moss Hart’s original direction. He was also unhappy with the casting of Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle and that the film was shot in its entirety at the Warner Bros. studio rather than, as he would have preferred, in London. Despite the controversy, My Fair Lady was considered a major critical and box office success, ultimately going on to win eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year, Best Actor for Rex Harrison, and Best Director for George Cukor.
Unrealized film in 2000s
A new film adaptation was announced by Columbia Pictures in 2008, but as of May 5, 2014, the project had been shelved. The intention was to shoot on location in Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Tottenham Court Road, Wimpole Street and the Ascot Racecourse. In December 2009, it was announced that John Madden had been signed to direct it and in 2011 it was reported that Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan were possible choices for the leading roles. Emma Thompson wrote a new screenplay adaptation for the project.
Original Broadway Cast 1956
Julie Andrews – Eliza Doolittle – (Mar 15, 1956 – Feb 01, 1958)
Rex Harrison – Henry Higgins – (Mar 15, 1956 – Dec 23, 1957)
Robert Coote – Colonel Pickering
Stanley Holloway – Alfred P. Doolittle
Cathleen Nesbitt – Mrs. Higgins
Estelle Aza – Dancing Ensemble
Philippa Bevans – Mrs. Pearce
Paul Brown – Flunkey/ Bartender
Thatcher Clarke – Dancing Ensemble
Melisande Congdon – Singing Ensemble
Cathy Conklin – Flower Girl/ Dancing Ensemble
Margaret Cuddy – Dancing Ensemble
Imelda De Martin – Busker/ Dancing Ensemble
Pat Diamond – Dancing Ensemble
Crandall Diehl – Dancing Ensemble
Gordon Dilworth – Selsey Man/ Harry/ Lord Boxington
Pat Drylie – Dancing Ensemble
David Evans – Dancing Ensemble
Gordon Ewing – Footman/ Singing Ensemble
Lola Fisher – Singing Ensemble
Rosemary Gaines – Servant/ Singing Ensemble
Maribel Hammer – Queen of Transylvania/ Singing Ensemble
Barbara Heath – Dancing Ensemble
Christopher Hewett – Bystander/ Zoltan Karpathy
Carl Jeffrey – Busker/ Dancing Ensemble
Glenn Kezer – Second Cockney/ Servant/ Singing Ensemble
John Michael King – Freddy Eynsford-Hill
William Krach – Footman/ Singing Ensemble
Vera Lee – Dancing Ensemble
Nancy Lynch – Dancing Ensemble
Rod McLennan – Another Bystander/ Jamie/ Ambassador
James Morris – Third Cockney/ Singing Ensemble
Barton Mumaw – Chauffeur/ Constable/ Dancing Ensemble
Gene Nettles – Dancing Ensemble
Colleen O’Connor – Servant/ Singing Ensemble
Olive Reeves-Smith – Mrs. Hopkins/ Lady Boxington
Viola Roache – Mrs. Eynsford-Hill
Joe Rocco – Busker/ Dancing Ensemble
Fernando Schaffenburg – Dancing Ensemble
Muriel Shaw – Servant/ Singing Ensemble
Reid Shelton – First Cockney/ Butler/ Singing Ensemble
Patti Spangler – Singing Ensemble
Herb Surface – Fourth Cockney/ Singing Ensemble
David Thomas – Hoxton Man/ Bartender/ Singing Ensemble
Gloria Van Dorpe – Servant/ Singing Ensemble
James White – Dancing Ensemble
Judith Williams – Mrs. Higgins’ Maid / Dancing Ensemble
Understudies: Constance Brigham (Eliza Doolittle), Paul Brown (Jamie), Gordon Dilworth (Alfred P. Doolittle), Maribel Hammer (Mrs. Hopkins), Christopher Hewett (Henry Higgins), Glenn Kezer (Harry), Rod McLennan (Colonel Pickering), Olive Reeves-Smith (Mrs. Eynsford-Hill, Mrs. Pearce), Viola Roache (Mrs. Higgins), Reid Shelton (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) and David Thomas (Zoltan Karpathy)
Broadway 2018 Revival Cast
Lauren Ambrose – Eliza Doolittle – (Mar 15, 2018 – Oct 21, 2018)
Harry Hadden-Paton – Broadway Debut Professor Henry Higgins
Norbert Leo Butz – Alfred P. Doolittle
Allan Corduner – Colonel Pickering
Jordan Donica – Freddy Eynsford-Hill
Linda Mugleston – Mrs. Pearce
Manu Narayan – Professor Zoltan Karpathy – (Mar 15, 2018 – Jun 24, 2018)
Diana Rigg – Mrs. Higgins – (Mar 15, 2018 – Sep 09, 2018)
Cameron Adams – Higgins’ Maid/ Ensemble
Shereen Ahmed – Broadway Debut Ensemble
Kerstin Anderson – Broadway Debut – Flower Girl/ Higgins’ Maid/ Ensemble
John Treacy Egan – The “Loverly” Quartet/ Lord Boxington/ Ensemble
Rebecca Eichenberger – Lady Boxington/ Ensemble
SuEllen Estey – Queen of Transylvania/ Ensemble
Christopher Faison – Broadway Debut – The “Loverly” Quartet/ Ensemble
Steven Trumon Gray – Ensemble
Adam Grupper – The “Loverly” Quartet/ Higgins’ Butler/ Footman/ Ensemble
Michael Halling – Frank/ the Bartender/ Ensemble
Joe Hart – Harry/ Ensemble
Sasha Hutchings – Ensemble
Kate Marilley – Broadway Ddebut – Higgins’ Maid/ Ensemble
Liz McCartney – Mrs. Hopkins/ Higgins’ Maid/ Ensemble
Justin Lee Miller – The “Loverly” Quartet/ Steward/ Constable/ Footman/ Ensemble
Rommel Pierre O’Choa – Mrs. Higgins’ Servant/ Ensemble
Keven Quillon – Constable/ Ensemble
JoAnna Rhinehart – Broadway Debut – Mrs. Eynsford-Hill/ Ensemble
Lance Roberts – Jamie/ Ensemble
Blair Ross – Hostess/ Ensemble
Christine Cornish Smith – Ensemble
Paul Slade Smith – Hoxton Man/ Higgins’ Butler/ Mrs. Higgins’ Servant/ Ensemble
Samantha Sturm – Ensemble
Matt Wall – Charles/ Ensemble
Lee Zarrett – Selsey Man/ Steward/ Ensemble
Swings: Heather Botts, Tony Roach, Michael Williams and Minami Yusui
Understudies: Kerstin Anderson (Eliza Doolittle), Heather Botts (Eliza Doolittle), John Treacy Egan (Professor Zoltan Karpathy), SuEllen Estey (Mrs. Higgins), Christopher Faison (Freddy Eynsford-Hill), Adam Grupper (Alfred P. Doolittle, Colonel Pickering), Michael Halling (Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Professor Henry Higgins), Joe Hart (Alfred P. Doolittle), Kate Marilley (Mrs. Pearce), Liz McCartney (Mrs. Pearce), Tony Roach (Professor Henry Higgins), Blair Ross (Mrs. Higgins), Paul Slade Smith (Colonel Pickering) and Lee Zarrett (Professor Zoltan Karpathy)
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…the Alan Jay Lerner-directed My Fair Lady (Freddy Eynsford-Hill)…
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Paul returned to acting for a two-year run in the West End as Mrs Pearce, the housekeeper, in My Fair Lady (1979-81).
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- Tied with Tina Landau for SpongeBob SquarePants
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- Full references at Wiki
- Citron, David (1995). The Wordsmiths: Oscar Hammerstein 2nd and Alan Jay Lerner, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508386-5
- Garebian, Keith (1998). The Making of My Fair Lady, Mosaic Press. ISBN 0-88962-653-7
- Green, Benny, Editor (1987). A Hymn to Him : The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-87910-109-1
- Jablonski, Edward (1996). Alan Jay Lerner: A Biography, Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0-8050-4076-5
- Lees, Gene (2005). The Musical Worlds of Lerner and Loewe, Bison Books. ISBN 0-8032-8040-8
- Lerner, Alan Jay (1985). The Street Where I Live, Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80602-9
- McHugh, Dominic. Loverly: The Life and Times of “My Fair Lady” (Oxford University Press; 2012) 265 pages; uses unpublished documents to study the five-year process of the original production.
- Shapiro, Doris (1989). We Danced All Night: My Life Behind the Scenes With Alan Jay Lerner, Barricade Books. ISBN 0-942637-98-4