Musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. The opinionated linguistics professor and confirmed bachelor Professor Henry Higgins makes a wager with Colonel Pickering that within six months he can transform a cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, into a lady who can take her place in high society. He wins the bet, but doesn't bargain for the profound effect that she has on his life.
Lerner and Loewe's multi-award winning musical has became one of the greatest successes of the New York and London stages, and paved the way for the hugely popular film version in 1964. The score is full of great songs including 'I Could Have Danced All Night'; 'The Rain in Spain'; 'Wouldn't it be Loverly'; and 'I'm Getting Married in the Morning'.
Musical with musical by Frederick Loewe and Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, and the film by Gabriel Pascal.
Lerner and Loewe's London theatre credits include the musicals Gigi, Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon. In addition Alan Jay Lerner wrote the book for the George and Ira Gershwin musical An American in Paris.
1958: West End London Premiere
Opened 30 April 1958, Closed 19 October 1963 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
The cast included Julie Andrews as 'Eliza Doolittle', Rex Harrison as 'Professor Henry Higgins', Stanley Holloway as 'Alfred P Doolittle', Robert Coote as 'Colonel Hugh Pickering', Zena Dare as 'Mrs Higgins', Peter Gilmore as 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill', Betty Woolfe as 'Mrs Pearce', Max Oldaker as 'Zoltan Karpathy', Linda Gray as 'Mrs Eynsford-Hill', and Elaine Garreau as 'Mrs Hopkins'.
The role of 'Eliza Doolittle' was played by Julie Andrews from Wednesday 30 April 1958 to Saturday 8 August 1959; by Anne Rogers from Monday 10 August 1959 to Saturday 7 April 1962; by Tonia Lee from Monday 9 April 1962 to Monday 2 September 1963 (see note below); and lastly by Jean Scott from Tuesday 3 September to Saturday 19 October 1963.
The role of 'Professor Henry Higgins' was played by Rex Harrison from Wednesday 30 April 1958 to Saturday 28 March 1959; by Alec Clunes from Monday 30 March 1959 to Saturday 1 October 1960; and lastly by Charles Stapley from Monday 3 October 1960 to Saturday 19 October 1963.
The role of 'Alfred Doolittle' was played by Stanley Holloway from Wednesday 30 April 1958 to Saturday 3 October 1959; and by James Hayter from Monday 5 October 1959 to Saturday 19 October 1963.
The role of 'Mrs Higgins' was played by Zena Dare for the entire run, excluding holiday breaks.
Directed by Moss Hart, with choreography by Hanya Holm, sets by Oliver Smith, costumes by Cecil Beaton, and lighting by Joe Davis.
Tonia Lee was the understudy 'Eliza' from the start of the West End run, and therefore had already played the role for around 200-times over four years - filling-in for both holiday breaks and illness - before she officially took over the role full-time from Monday 9 April 1962. She was scheduled to play the role up to when the show closed, but unfortunately injury caused by an on-stage accident forced her to withdraw from the show early. At the performance on Monday 2 September 1963, at the end of the 'Ascot Scene', there is a sudden black-out that finishes the scene, and allows the actors to exit the stage without being seen by the audience. Unfortunately while the actors where exiting, a cast member stood on Tonia Lee's foot, causing a 'flake' fracture to the ankle, which forced her to withdraw from the production.
1979: 1st West End London Revival
Previewed 19 October 1979, Opened 25 October 1979, Closed 31 October 1981 at the Adelphi Theatre
The cast included Liz Robertson as 'Eliza Doolittle', Tony Britton as 'Professor Henry Higgins', Peter Bayliss as 'Alfred P Doolittle', Richard Caldicot as 'Colonel Hugh Pickering', Anna Neagle as 'Mrs Higgins', Peter Land as 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill', Betty Paul as 'Mrs Pearce', Kalman Glass as 'Zoltan Karpathy', Joan Ryan as 'Mrs Eynsford-Hill', and Peggy Ashby as 'Mrs Hopkins'.
The role of 'Eliza Doolittle' was played by Liz Robertson from Friday 19 October 1979 to Saturday 25 October 1980; by Caroline Villiers from Monday 27 October 1980 to Saturday 14 February 1981; and lastly by Jill Martin from Monday 16 February 1981 to Saturday 31 October 1981.
The role of 'Professor Henry Higgins' was played by Tony Britton for the entire run, excluding holiday breaks.
The role of 'Alfred Doolittle' was played by Peter Bayliss for the entire run, excluding holiday breaks.
The role of 'Mrs Higgins' was played by Anna Neagle for the entire run, excluding holiday breaks.
Directed by Robin Midgley, with choreography by Gillian Lynne, sets by Adrian Vaux, costumes by Tim Goodchild, lighting by Joe Davis, and sound by Edward Fardell.
2001: 2nd West End London Revival
Previewed 6 March 2001, Opened 15 March 2001, Closed 30 June 2001 at the National Theatre' Lyttelton Theatre
Previewed 21 July 2001, Opened 24 July 2001, Closed 30 August 2003 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
A major revival of the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady in London directed by Trevor Nunn
The ORIGINAL cast at London's Lyttelton Theatre and the West End's Theatre Royal Drury Lane (up to Saturday 20 April 2002) featured Martine McCutcheon as 'Eliza Doolittle' (up to Saturday 8 December 2001), Joanna Riding as 'Eliza Doolittle' (from Monday 10 December 2001), Alexandra Jay as 'Eliza Doolittle' (Monday evenings and Wednesday matinees from Monday 23 July 2001), Jonathan Pryce as 'Professor Henry Higgins', Dennis Waterman as 'Alfred P Doolittle', Nicholas Le Prevost as 'Colonel Hugh Pickering', Caroline Blakiston as 'Mrs Higgins', Mark Umbers as 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill', and Patsy Rowlands as 'Mrs Pearce', with Sevan Stephan as 'Zoltan Karpathy', Jill Martin as 'Mrs Eynsford-Hill', Ann Emery as 'Mrs Hopkins', Sarah Moyle as 'Clara Eynsford-Hill', Phillip Aiden as 'Prince of Transylvania', Valerie Cutko as 'Queen of Transylvania', David Shaw-Parker as 'Lord Boxington', Jean Reeve as 'Lady Boxington', Michael Sadler as 'Sir Reginald Torrington', Katherine Barnes, Madelaine Brennan, David Burrows, Margie Chadwick, Daniele Coombe, Simon Coulthard, Lisa Donmall, Tom Dwyer, Kerry Ellis, Mark Frendo, Michael Harbour (Lyttelton Theatre), Lincoln Hudson, Jacqui Jameson, Alexandra Jay, Neil Johnson, Adam Jones, Terry Kelly, Fergus Logan, Brenda Martindale (Drury Lane), Chris Andrew Mellon (Drury Lane), Tober Reilly, John Stacey, Carryl Thomas, Suzanne Toase, and Philip Willingham.
The SECOND cast (from Monday 22 April 2002 to Saturday 8 March 2003) featured Joanna Riding as 'Eliza Doolittle', Katie Knight Adams as 'Eliza Doolittle' (Monday evenings and Wednesday Matinees), Alex Jennings as 'Professor Henry Higgins', Dennis Waterman as 'Alfred P Doolittle', Malcolm Sinclair as 'Colonel Hugh Pickering', Caroline Blakison as 'Mrs Higgins', Peter Prentice as 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill', and Dilys Laye as Mrs Pearce'.
The THIRD cast (from Monday 10 March 2003 to Saturday 30 August 2003) featured Laura Michelle Kelly as 'Eliza Doolittle', Katie Knight Adams as 'Eliza Doolittle' (Monday evenings and Wednesday Matinees), Anthony Andrews as 'Professor Henry Higgins', Russ Abbot as 'Alfred P Doolittle', Stephen Moore as 'Colonel Pickering', Hannah Gordon as 'Mrs Higgins', Michael Xavier as 'Freddy Eynsford-Hill', and Patsy Rowlands as 'Mrs Pearce'.
Directed by Trevor Nunn, with choreography by Matthew Bourne, designs by Anthony Ward, lighting by David Hersey, and sound by Paul Groothuis.
"Flu-hit Martine McCutcheon was given the go ahead to open in My Fair Lady just hours before the curtain went up. And she was given a tremendous reception by the packed first night audience... We already knew she could act and we already knew she could sing. Now we know she can do both at the same time... Jonathan Pryce effortlessly shrugs off the shadow of Rex Harrison as irascible bachelor Professor Henry Higgins who makes a bet that he can pass her off in high society by teaching her to speak properly... Dennis Waterman from TV's Minder gives a barn-storming performance in the role of Eliza's philosophical dustman dad Alfred P Doolittle... The costumes are lavish and the sets sumptuous. It's full of rousing choruses and lively dance routines and although it runs for three and a quarter hours with interval the time zips by. The entire cast including Nicholas Le Prevost as Colonel Pickering and Mark Umbers as the love-sick Freddy Eynsford-Hill are terrific." The Daily Mirror
"Trevor Nunn's show crackles like a house on fire... No mess or fuss slow this production down: William David Brohn's orchestrations are crisp and clean; Anthony Ward's elegant brown, grey and mauve sets are impressive without being gaudy. Matthew Bourne's choreography is at times heavy-footed but its heartiness is cut with bracing astringency... Jonathan Pryce is more convincingly academic than Rex Harrison - he makes the Professor as dapper as he is self-absorbed: when he sings, his hands stay in his pockets... Martine McCutcheon starts out shakily, overdoing the distressed urchin bit but gains in confidence once in Higgins' household. In defiance she is delightful and her joy at mastering the tricky vowels is infectious. But once she starts to talk proper, she loses some of the sweetness and sense of fun." The Independent
"Alex Jennings... scores a real success by singing the lines (instead of speaking them) and clasping the role to his own glacial, then vulnerably childish, comic personality. One is less convinced by Joanna Riding's Eliza, rather too mature and knowing and 'Cockney-fied' after the refreshing but scandalously sporadic appearances of Martine McCutcheon. Riding sings very well, if a little thinly... The great thing is, though, that she and Jennings find their own way to the heart of the musical and their inter-dependence, maybe love, after Eliza has been used as a social experiment... Cheers, too, for Malcolm Sinclair's incisive, yet fussing old Pickering and Dilys Laye's bustling Mrs Pearce... A definitive version of a modern classic." The Daily Mail
"It is now almost a year into the Drury Lane run for this terrific show and it is still packing them in... Alex Jennings takes over from Jonathan Pryce in the role still dominated by the ghost of Rex Harrison, who spoke the lines - Jennings sings them. He is brilliant too - ramrod posture, flailing arms and a terrific bark... Joanna Riding's Eliza is a bit too mockney for my taste, but she still invests the evening with a magical, Cinderella allure. Malcolm Sinclair is a delightful Pickering and Peter Prentice plays Freddie Eynsford-Hill as a silly-ass type straight out of PG Wodehouse... Staged under the over-arching columns of the Covent Garden flower market, director Trevor Nunn's production is totally in tune with Lerner and Loewe's deliciously crisp, witty, literate creation... Unmissable for all musical lovers." The Daily Express
"Laura Michelle Kelly is the new Eliza, and she is surely going to get lots of starring roles in future. Her good looks and fine voice are matched by splendid energy and a sure sense of comedy. Russ Abbot is a more robust Doolittle than Denis Waterman from whom he takes over... Among the other replacements, only Anthony Andrews' Higgins represents a slight dip: compared with Alex Jennings or Jennings' predecessor, Jonathan Pryce, he seems a bit two-dimensional. But he's still good enough for his partnership with Laura Michelle Kelly to maintain a reasonable balance." The Sunday Telegraph
"Anthony Andrews takes the stage with a nimble, foxy elegance... he is more Shaw's Higgins than Lerner & Loewe's: the vulnerability of the ending feels as if it has been tacked on as an afterthought. Enough: it is a glamorous, debonair performance in a glamorous, debonair show... Laura Michelle Kelly is the new Eliza: pretty, full of vitality and with clear high notes. She is a little on the hard side, though. I think she should project more warmth - you ought to be rooting for Eliza all the way. Her cockney is a bit ropey, but once the comforting warmth of posh speech envelopes her, she opens up like a flower." The Sunday Times
Unfortunately Martine McCutcheon was affected by illness throughout most of her run in this production. Illness forced her to miss the last preview performance at the Lyttelton Theatre, and a number of performances the week after opening, culminating with her being admitted to hospital. At the time a spokesperson for the National Theatre said: "Martine McCutcheon was admitted to hospital with a virus infection and streptococcal throat infection. She is also suffering from a sinusitis and impaired blood clotting. We hope she will be discharged early next week but we wish to ensure her recovery is complete so as to avoid any relapse." In the past Martine McCutcheon has suffered from glandular fever and hepatitis.
According to reports, out of the 132 performances at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre, Martine McCutcheon performed at 63 performances, while her 1st understudy, Alexandra Jay, performed at 64 performances, and the 2nd understudy, Kerry Ellis, performed at 5.
When the production transferred to the West End's Drury Lane Theatre Martine McCutcheon's performance schedule was reduced to six-performances-a-week. At the time a spokesperson for the producer Cameron Mackintosh said: "Martine McCutcheon, who enjoyed a huge personal truimph with both critics and public, has overcome a serious illness to return to the show and work towards performing eight-times-a-week. Although she achieved this as the National Theatre, her doctors have now instructed that, in order to protect against a recurrence of the virus, she must only perform six-times-per-week at Drury Lane, rather than the eight that both she and the producers had originally intended. She has reluctantly agreed to this. Cameron Mackintosh and Trevor Nunn have, therefore, decided that Alexandra Jay, Martine's understudy who played the role to great acclaim on numerous occasions at the National Theatre will play the role of 'Eliza' on Monday evenings and Wednesday matinees at Drury Lane."
Martine McCutcheon was originally scheduled to play the role of 'Eliza' up to April 2002, but on Friday 2 November 2001 the following statement was issued by the production: "Cameron Mackintosh announced today, with great regret, that Martine McCutcheon will leave the production of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Martine was originally contracted until April 2002 but, notwithstanding her acclaimed performance and wonderful notices for her portrayal as Eliza Doolittle, her performances have been restricted by a recurrence of the vocal problems that she developed earlier this year. Shortly before opening at the National Theatre, she contracted a serious virus which kept her away from the production for several weeks. It was subsequently decided that, once she returned to the show, the demands of the role on a young voice meant that she should only play six performances a week. In July, she returned to the role at Drury Lane and continued to perform regularly. However, during the last few weeks, she has been forced to miss a number of performances through a recurrence of these vocal problems. Her doctors now advise that the only way she will make a complete recovery is to take a clean break from performing for a few months, as soon as possible. Consequently, we have agreed to replace Martine from 10 December 2001 and, subject to her health and her doctor’s advice, she will undertake as many of her scheduled performances as she can until that date."
The special 'Gala Opening Performance' at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Tuesday 24 July 2001 was hit with technical difficulties - described by the show's director Trevor Nunn as a "traumatic experience". Around twenty minutes after the show was meant to start, the producer Cameron Mackintosh walked onto the stage to announce to the audience that, due to technical problems - the generators that allow the scenery to be moved on and off stage had broken down - the start of the performance would be delayed by an hour. The performance finally got underway at 8.30pm and was preceded by Cameron Mackintosh coming back on stage to tell the audience that "We might not have 75% of the scenery but we will have 175% of the talent. In the grand tradition of musical theatre, we'll just busk it." As the scenery moving generators where not working the backstage staff where left to haul the scenery on and off the stage at the end of each scene, to appreciatative applause from the audience. The problems where sorted out in time for the second half which went ahead as per normal and the performance finally ended - with a standing ovation - at 11.45pm.
The run at the National Theatre' Lyttelton Theatre completely sold-out (with the exception of 'day-seats') before the show officially opened, and a transfer to the West End's Drury Lane was announced on Tuesday 20 March 2001, five days after opening at the National Theatre. The staging of the musical at the subsidised National Theatre, and it being directed by Trevor Nunn, the Artistic Director of the NT, caused some controversy. In an article written by Vanessa Thorpe that appeared in the Observer newspaper on Sunday 25 March 2001, under the title 'Chorus of anger as Nunn profits from My Fair Lady', it was said that "this weekend the director is being criticised by leading figures in the arts for staging a 'safe bet' show at a subsidised venue. He is also been attacked for arranging to make a personal profit when the musical eventually moves to a West End theatre," and quoting Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Arts Minister, saying "It is worrying that Arts Council money can be used to produce commercial theatre. I don't begrudge the National Theatre its success, but it is important that Arts Council money is seen being used in the best way."
In response to the article Trevor Nunn issued the following statement two days later:
"The age-old journalistic device of slur through innuendo dominates the shoddy report on the National Theatre's production of My Fair Lady by Vanessa Thorpe in The Observer of 25 March 2001. The facts are these.
"I have directed My Fair Lady, in collaboration with Matthew Bourne (choreographer), Anthony Ward (designer) and David Hersey (lighting designer), for the National Theatre in association with the holder of the rights of this property, Cameron Mackintosh. Following some wonderful reviews, the show is now sold out at the National Theatre, but quite properly I receive no extra payment of any kind at the National for this success.
"It has now been decided that after its announced run at the National Theatre, the show should transfer for an open-ended run at the Drury Lane Theatre, though of course, if the production had been a failure, it would not be moving anywhere.
"It has been the custom and practice in the theatre for the last several decades that those individuals creatively responsible for a work that transfers from the subsidised sector to the commercial sector should be free to negotiate their arrangements with the commercial producer. It is unacceptable that a subsidised company should itself act as a commercial producer, thereby putting tax-payers' money at risk.
"However, there has also been a general principle, also absolutely right in its intention, that no 'artistic director' of a nationally subsidised theatre should be in a position of receiving more financially from such a transfer than the theatre itself. Some arrangements in the past have sought to secure this position by imposing on the individual director a cap on his remuneration, so that his remuneration from the transfer is no greater than, or the same as, the theatre's remuneration.
"But clearly this arrangement could be enormously to the advantage of the commercial producer who might thereby get the work of the creative team very cheaply and below their market value. In my case, I have been determined from the outset that whatever happens in such royalty negotiations, the result must be to the advantage of the National Theatre. Therefore, my contract with the National Theatre provides that if one of my productions transfers, my representative would negotiate unfettered by a cap or other inhibition. Any monies to be received by me are to be divided between the National Theatre and myself in such a way that, of all the production royalty recipients, the National is the highest. Through this arrangement, the National Theatre is rewarded potentially at a higher level than might otherwise have been achieved.
"I can't imagine which "others" Vanessa Thorpe has found to argue that a commercial producer is taking "no risk" with the venture of moving a big and complex production to a West End theatre at enormous expense. It is interesting that these "others" to whom she refers are not named.
"Peter Ainsworth clearly did not understand the situation either or was misled about the facts. Subsidy has not been used to "produce commercial theatre" as he appears to fear. On the contrary, the investment in the show made by the National Theatre for the run of the show at the National Theatre, will provide an opportunity for the National subsequently to benefit, thus helping its subsidy position.
"Graham Sheffield [Artistic Director of the publicly subsidised Barbican Centre] says he needs to be assured that "the profile of other work" at the National Theatre is strong. Having announced our plans for the forthcoming financial year, and having won thirteen major awards for our work in the year just finishing, I am surprised such an eminent man of the theatre as Graham Sheffield should not know already that his "qualms" can be "put to one side".
"For the record, we are presenting two Shakespeares, a great Restoration comedy, a collaboration between Peter Hall and Harrison Birtwistle on a new version of The Bacchae, a trilogy of new plays by Tom Stoppard, a revival of All My Sons (our triumphant recent production of a neglected masterpiece), a new play by Patrick Marber, a new play by Mark Ravenhill, new plays by Charlotte Jones, Sebastian Barry and Nicholas Wright, a radical re-examination of The Good Woman of Setzuan, visiting productions from Robert Lepage, Birmingham (The Ramayana) and more visitors later in the year, a new Connections Youth Theatre Festival, an Art of Regeneration programme devised for Greenwich and Lewisham, and a full touring programme following last year's achievement when we doubled our number of touring weeks.
"The National Theatre has a responsibility to balance its books while providing the greatest possible diversity of repertoire in three theatres. We are confident that our work is currently full of risk-taking ventures, balanced with other projects that have total validity for our wide ranging audience but which also earn sufficient money to make these risks viable."
-- Trevor Nunn 27 March 2001.
My Fair Lady in London at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal previewed from 21 July 2001, opened on 24 July 2001, and closed on 30 August 2003