After 62 Years, is "My Fair Lady" is Still Loverly?


Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Paton in the Lincoln Center production of My Fair Lady.

When the orchestra began the Overture, I felt the tears in my eyes. After 62 years, I was sitting on Broadway (The Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center, fifth-row center) watching a gorgeous production of My Fair Lady.

"So what?" most of you will say. Isn't that some old musical about some old guy who takes advantage of a young woman? There's no hip-hop. There are no juke-box favorites from the 60's or 70's. No sorcerers or green witches or Disney Princesses. Who cares about this old dinosaur?

Me, me, me! My Fair Lady debuted in 1956, the same year I was born. I grew up with the soundtrack album. The picture of George Bernard Shaw on the cover, the puppet-master/God to Henry Higgins and Liza Doolittle played by Rex Harrison and an almost-new-comer named Julie Andrews. Julie-f'in Andrews! Not on the screen as magical Mary Poppins, or as sweet-as-sugar Maria von Trapp, but live on stage as Eliza, the "gutter-snipe" who learns to become a lady.

I can sing every song, every word, and frequently have. From the fun of "A Little Bit of Luck," through the schmaltz of "On the Street Where You Live," to the sadness and self-realization of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." I knew them all by the time I was five years old.

And here I was sitting and watching the giant stage with Higgins' home revolving in front of me; clapping for the show-stopping raunchy chorus celebrating Alfred Doolittle's last night of freedom before marriage; admiring Liza's stunning performance at the Embassy Ball. It took all of my will-power, and a stern hand on my arm from Barb, for me not to stand up sing along.

We saw one of the last productions featuring Lauren Ambrose as Eliza. She will be replaced soon by Laura Benanti. We first saw Laura in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. I am sure she appreciates working with slightly better material this time around! Harry Hadden-Paton and Norbert Leo Butz were great in the other lead roles. Can I help it if I kept wondering what it would have been like to be in the theater for Julie and Rex in 1956?

On our walk back to the hotel after the show, there was time for discussion of the historical and sociological underpinnings of the show and its relevancy in the #metoo movement moment. They are relevant points. But for three hours I was in another world. And I loved it.

Thanks for the pre-anniversary surprise, Babe!

And to all you readers, what is your favorite Broadway memory?

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