In today’s Wall Street Journal I review Lincoln Center Theater’s new Broadway revival of My Fair Lady. Here’s an excerpt.
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Of all the great Broadway musicals of the postwar era, “My Fair Lady” is the only one that takes a major work of literature, George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” and turns it into an equally distinguished musical that is true to the spirit and letter of its source material….
For this reason alone, it’s appropriate that Lincoln Center Theater, which is as well known for its musical-comedy revivals as it is for its productions of the plays of such noted modern dramatists as John Guare and Tom Stoppard, should now be mounting the fourth Broadway revival of “My Fair Lady,” which was last seen in New York in 1994. Nor would anyone reasonably expect LCT to offer the kind of radical transformation of so beloved a musical that Bedlam recently gave us in its small-scale “Pygmalion” (which closes on Sunday, if you haven’t seen it yet). Instead, Bartlett Sher, the director, has mounted “My Fair Lady” in the now-familiar manner of his hugely and deservedly successful LCT revivals of “South Pacific” and “The King and I.” Like its predecessors, it’s a very big show, with elaborate costumes, a full-sized pit orchestra, a Turneresque drop portraying Vicwardian London and a star, Lauren Ambrose, who is famous for her TV work but is also a stage performer of the first rank.
If you’ve been eagerly waiting for Ms. Ambrose to return to the New York stage ever since she stole the show from Susan Sarandon nine years ago in “Exit the King,” you’ll be happy to hear that she’s a knockout and a wow….
I’ve seen more dramaturgically adventurous revivals, most notably at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2013 (where Amanda Dehnert staged the show in the style of Brecht) and at Boston’s Lyric Stage in 2015 (where it was mounted in a small-scale production of the utmost ingenuity). Nevertheless, this version works—up to a point.
That point is Harry Hadden-Paton, lately of “Downton Abbey” and “The Crown,” who is making his U.S. stage debut as Henry Higgins, the irascible phoneticist who endeavors to turn a Covent Garden flower girl into a Reel English Liydy by scrubbing off her Cockney accent. Mr. Hadden-Paton is competent but less than exciting as Professor Higgins…
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Read the whole thing here.
A montage of scenes from My Fair Lady: