My Fair Lady: A Broadway Favorite Comes to Lyric
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s glorious My Fair Lady will soon be arriving at Lyric! Since its 1956 premiere, the memorable music and thrilling story have enchanted audiences of all ages.
Lerner and Loewe were already successful on Broadway (Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon) by 1952, when the idea of a musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion was suggested to them. Two other greats of musical theater, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, had previously made the attempt and given up, but once Lerner and Loewe decided to take on the project, they discovered that Shaw had given them all they needed.
Lerner and Loewe’s resolve to, as Lerner said, “do Pygmalion simply by doing Pygmalion” resulted in the wonderfully seamless feel of the show. Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison agreed to star as the flower girl Eliza Doolittle and Prof. Henry Higgins, but one problem remained: how does anyone write a musical without a love story? And how would they write what amounts to an almost-love song?
They found their answer in the pages of Pygmalion. In the final act, Eliza decides to leave and marry young Freddy Eynsford-Hill, now that her lessons in speech with Prof. Higgins are over. In response, Higgins shows a bit of vulnerability, saying, “And I’ve grown accustomed to your voice and appearance. I like them, rather.” It was from these very words that Lerner and Loewe were inspired to write “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” In this song Higgins expresses real turmoil over Eliza’s impending marriage to Freddy. It was in the song’s beautiful main theme that Lerner and Loewe developed the memorable “almost-love song” they’d searched for.
The duo’s response for Eliza was her show-stopping number, “I Could Have Danced All Night,” in which we can sense her suppressed feelings for Higgins. The absence of a “standard” love song doesn’t divorce the show from romance completely; there is, after all, Freddy’s “On the Street Where You Live” (even Shaw declared in his afterword that once Pygmalion was over, Freddy and Eliza married).
Despite the unconventional structure and lack of a typical love story, Lerner and Loewe were triumphantly successful in their adaptation — My Fair Lady became Broadway’s hottest ticket! Without a doubt, for as long as musicals are performed, this will continue its long reign. It is, quite simply, perfection.