Sunday, August 19, 2018

"My Fair Lady" on Broadway at Lincoln Center

Last week TD and I went up to Lincoln Center to the Vivian Beaumont Theater to see My Fair Lady and it was a big treat. It runs almost three hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. My Fair Lady stars Lauren Ambrose (below) as the transformed flower girl Eliza Doolittle, Harry Hadden-Paton from Downton Abbey as Professor Higgins, Diana Rigg, who I remember as Emma Peal on The Avengers tv show (!) as Professor Higgins' mother, and Norbert Leo Butz as Eliza's father. 

(photos from the Lincoln Center website)
Lauren Ambrose, best known from Six Feet Under, was famously cast to star in Funny Girl on Broadway but that production was canceled for lack of funding. Now she has her chance on Broadway and she is wonderful. She is of course a great actor plus she can sing too!
     The real revelation was Norbert Leo Butz who is a two-time Tony Award winner, but I had not seen him on stage before. He is magnetic and you can't take your eyes off of him. The rip-roaring number "Get Me to the Church on Time" (below) had people clapping in their seats and stopped the show with thunderous applause.

Mr. Harry Hadden-Paton as Professor Higgins was a no-show which was initially disappointing but we saw a tall and handsome understudy named Tony Roach who did a great job and thoroughly inhabited the role. This production is elegantly directly by Bartlett Sher. We saw his production of The Light in the Piazza, also at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and that too was a memorable play.
     My Fair Lady has the most wonderful set piece, which is Professor Higgins' Edwardian London house. On stage it dimly advances forward out of the darkness and lights up. Then it spins around to reveal different rooms - the library, the front hall, a bathroom or hall. Characters go through doors of the rooms as it spins and then it recedes back into the darkness at the end of a scene. It was beautiful how it was done, somehow evoking its own emotion.
     And of course there is the swelling Lerner & Loewe music thanks to a full orchestra playing away. It's one hit after another - "Wouldn't It be Loverly," "With a Little Bit of Luck," "The Rain in Spain," On the Street Where You Live."
    I was so happy to see this production because I have a long history with My Fair Lady. When I was young, the movie came out over Thanksgiving weekend, which is when my birthday falls so for my birthday I wanted to go see My Fair Lady. I was seven.
    We were visiting my grandparents in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and my mother and my grandmother and brother Thom and I took the "high speed" train into Philadelphia and saw the picture in a grand old theater that I'm sure is no longer there. I, of course, loved it all - directed by George Cukor, costume design and art direction by Cecil Beaton, and starring the stunning Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. The movie images have become iconic.
Eliza at Ascot –

Eliza at the Embassy Ball –

After seeing the movie we got the soundtrack record and I listened to it at home every day after school, oh yes I did.

When my family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, while I was in college, I was home working one summer and volunteered to do props for a production of My Fair Lady presented at the Fort Wayne Civic Theater. There were some cast parties and it was a fun way to make some friends, and after hearing the show every night I grew to know it by heart. For me My Fair Lady is a beautiful, lyrical Edwardian dream. What a long-lasting gift its creators gave.