Director of “The King and I” Helms Lerner and Loewe Classic
On March 15, 2018, My Fair Lady began previews at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center Theater. The show is scheduled to have its official opening night on April 19, 2018. This musical, with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, and a musical score by Frederick Loewe, which is adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, premiered on Broadway in 1956 starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, earning the record at the time for the longest running show with 2,717 performances. That year, the show earned the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Conductor and Musical Director. The show was then revived on Broadway in 1976 starring Ian Richardson and Christine Andreas, and again in 1981 starring Rex Harrison and Nancy Ringham, and then again in 1993 starring Richard Chamberlain and Melissa Errico. In the meantime, the show also had very successful productions in London and all around the world, becoming an undeniable modern classic. Finally, in 2018, the show is seeing its fifth Broadway production now in previews, directed by Bartlett Sher. A Lincoln Center Theater regular, Sher’s Broadway directorial credits include Oslo, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, The Bridges of Madison County, Golden Boy, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, South Pacific, Awake and Sing!, and The Light in the Piazza.
In the role of Eliza Doolittle is Lauren Ambrose, whose previous Broadway credits include Awake and Sing! and Exit the King. Thus she is reuniting with Bartlett Sher from their 2006 collaboration on Awake and Sing! Ambrose is also known for her film roles including Can’t Hardly Wait, Psycho Beach Party, and Sleepwalk With Me, as well as her television appearances on such shows as Six Feet Under, Torchwood: Miracle Day, Dig, and Law & Order. In the part of Henry Higgins is Harry Hadden-Paton, making his Broadway debut. Hadden-Paton is a British actor best known for his role as Herbert Pelham, 7th Marquess of Hexham, on the television series Downton Abbey. His London theatre credits include Flare Path, No Naughts Bits, She Stoops to Conquer, The Changeling, and The Pride. In an unusual turn of casting, Hadden-Paton is actually 4 years younger than Ambrose. In the earlier productions, the part of Eliza was much younger than that of Henry Higgins, especially in the 1981 revival when Rex Harrison reprised his role from the original production. In any case, the parts are not intrinsically required to have an age gap, nor must he be older than her, and this distinctly modern choice will hopefully not distract audiences. Nevertheless, in the original production of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw on which the musical was based, the role was created for and played by Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who has almost 50 at the time. As for the other parts, Norbert Leo Butz (Big Fish, Dead Accounts, Catch Me If You Can, Enron) plays Alfred P. Doolittle, and Diana Rigg (Medea, The Misanthrope, Abelard and Heloise) plays Mrs. Higgins. It is a daring choice for Bartlett Sher and the producers to put on this show without a hugely recognizable star in the part, but it is to the credit of the creative team to go ahead with the choice of integrity, rather than stardom. Other revivals have failed when attempting to ride on the fame of a celebrity, and in this case, the effectiveness of the performances will make or break the revival.