|My Fair Lady|
Dec 2nd - Dec 5th 1998
Show Info Edit
My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and 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 so that she can pass as a lady. Higgins takes credit for Eliza's success, but she realizes that she can now be independent and does not need him.
The musical's 1956 Broadway production was a smash hit, setting a new record for the longest run of any major musical theatre production in history. It was followed by a hit London production, a popular film version, and numerous revivals. It has been called "the perfect musical."
On a rainy night in Edwardian London, the opera patrons are waiting under the arches of Covent Garden for cabs. Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, runs into young Freddie. She admonishes him for spilling her violets in the mud but cheers up after selling one to an older gentleman. She flies into an angry outburst when she sees another man copying down her speech. The man explains that he studies phonetics and can identify any man's origin by his accent. He laments Eliza's dreadful accent, asking "Why Can't the English learn to speak?" 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 both have always wanted to meet each other, Higgins invites Pickering to stay at his home in London. He distractedly throws his change in Eliza's basket, and she and her friends wonder "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" to live a comfortable, proper life.
Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, a dustman, stops 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's home when Mrs. Pierce, the housekeeper, informs Higgins that a young woman with a ghastly accent has come to see him. It is Eliza, come to take lessons to speak properly so she can become a lady. 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 kindhearted, patient man who cannot get along with women ("I'm an Ordinary Man"). In reality, he is self-absorbed and misogynistic.
Eliza's father 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 his brazen lack of moral values ("Can't afford 'em!"). He and Doolittle agree that Eliza can continue to take lessons and live at Higgins' house if Higgins gives Doolittle five pounds for a spree. Higgins flippantly recommends Doolittle to an American millionaire who is seeking a lecturer on moral values. Meanwhile, Eliza endures speech tutoring, endlessly repeating phrases like "In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen” (to demonstrate that "h"s must be aspirated) and "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" (to practice the "long a" phoneme). 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 "gets it" after Higgins eloquently speaks of the glory of the English language. "The Rain in Spain" becomes a song of triumph, as Higgins and Eliza dance around Higgins's study. Thereafter her pronunciation is transformed into that of impeccable upper class English. Mrs. Pierce, 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 the 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 with her polite manners but shocks everyone by her vulgar Cockney attitudes and slang—it seems that good elocution is only skin deep. But she captures the heart of Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the young man whom she first ran into. Freddie calls on Eliza that evening, but she refuses to see him. He declares that he will wait for her in the street outside Higgins's house ("On the Street Where You Live").
The final test requires Eliza 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 of Higgins, a Hungarian phonetician 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.
Eliza even fools Zoltan Karpathy into believing that she was "born Hungarian." After the ball, Higgins's boasting about his triumph and his pleasure that the experiment is now over leave Eliza feeling used and abandoned ("You Did It"). Higgins completely ignores Eliza until he loses his slippers. He asks her where they are, and she lashes out at him, leaving the clueless professor mystified by her ingratitude ("Just You Wait" (reprise)). Eliza decides to leave Higgins, and finds Freddie 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 Freddie return to Covent Garden, where her friends do not recognize her refined bearing. By chance, her father is there as well, dressed in a fine suit. He explains that he received a surprise bequest of four thousand pounds a year from the American millionaire, which has raised him to middle-class respectability, and now he must marry Eliza's "stepmother", the woman he has been living with for many years. Eliza sees that she no longer belongs in Covent Garden, and she and Freddie 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 he 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"). Higgins seeks his mother's advice and finds Eliza having tea with her. She leaves them together, and Eliza explains that he has always treated her as a flower girl, but she learned to be a lady because Colonel Pickering treated her like a lady. Higgins claims he treated her the same way that Pickering did, and demands that she return. Eliza accuses him of wanting her only to fetch and carry for him, saying that she will marry Freddie because he loves her. She declares that she does not need Higgins anymore, saying that she was foolish to think that she needed him ("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 realizes his feelings for Eliza: he has "grown accustomed to her face." He cannot bring himself to confess that he loves her and insists that if she marries Freddie and then comes back to him, he will not accept her. However, 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." Henry turns and sees 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?".
Eliza Doolittle - Kate Medic/Fiona Wabe
Colonel Pickering - Jeff Oliver
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill - Linzi Winsper
Freddy Eynsford-Hill - David Knight
Henry Higgins - Jay Hartley
Mrs. Higgens - Mabs Taylor
Alfred P Doolittle - Barry Lilley
Harry - Les Chegwin
Jamie - John Perry
Mrs. Pearce - Victoria Knight-Peak
Mrs. Hopkins - Christine Simpson
Bartender/Policeman - Rick Calcott
Professor Zoltan Karpathy - Tim Davies
Charles the Chauffeur - Barry Tinkler
Butler - John Hearn
Footman - John Covey
Lord Boxington - Mike Gearing
Lady Boxington - Heather Gearing
Flower Girl - Sue Knight
Chorus - Elsie Chegwin, Samantha Cumberland, Lisa Freeman, Fiona Wabe, Micki Darbyshire, Colette Pote, Bill Adams, Ian Belchamber, Clara-Jane Prince, Rhonda Rossier, Tanya Humphreys,
Dancers - Jessie Knight, Hayley Franklin, Eleanor Robertson, Jacqueline Kimber, Loni Booker,
Director - Steve Pannell
Choreographer - Paula Murray
Musical Director - Steve Powell
Musicians - Michael Wooldridge and Roger Cook