www.musicalwriters.com• For Musical Theatre Writers and Musical Enthusiasts

My Fair Lady

On This Page: Commentary . Books on the Making of . DVD . Cast Recordings . Sheet Music

The Writing of My Fair Lady

Noel KatzCommentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

My Fair Lady is a paradigm of so many elements that make musicals work. But one aspect that isn't to be found in most shows is the way its leads never express romantic feelings to each other. They don't really express it to themselves either: the closest they come is, "I've grown accustomed to her face."

All sorts of famous writers had worked on adapting Pygmalion before Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe devised a way to make George Bernard Shaw's unromantic battle of wills into a love story where love is never mentioned. It certainly wasn't what Shaw had in mind, but the Broadway audience of the 1950s wouldn't have done without it. On some level, even today, when we attend a musical, we crave some amount of romance. And when we hear Henry Higgins declare, "I shall never let a woman in my life," we know he will, someday. He needs to. We need to see it.

Lerner had hoped "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" would focus only on the comforts Eliza could not afford. He was disappointed in himself for including "someone's head resting on my knee." Eliza's goal is to better her station in life, but any heroine in any musical has romantic dreams. We'd believe that even if Lerner had left out the final segment of the song.

Certainly, Higgins and Eliza are a mismatched couple; that's why they spend so much time arguing with each other. But Lerner keeps playing upon our hope that they will fall in love: "I only know when he began to dance with me, I could have danced (danced, danced) all night." The climax of the first act involves Higgins, moved by Eliza's beauty, offering her his arm.

Late in Act Two it seems to us the leads will never see each other again (Eliza states this explicitly). Some might argue that Higgins doesn't deserve to see her again, but Lerner expects us to root for some sort of a reunion. So, Higgins does some soul-searching and comes to realize he wants exactly what Eliza, at one point, said she wants: for them to continue on together, in some sort of friendly-like relationship.

The audience, at this point, has ceased to hope they'll literally fall in love; we've come to understand that "being in love" would be an unnatural state for Higgins. So now we're rooting for Eliza to come back to a platonic relationship, and, when she does, she indicates her desire to return to the status quo by quoting a line she spoke the day she arrived. Higgins indicates his desire to return to the status quo by quoting a line he's spoken before: "Where the devil are my slippers?"And so, My Fair Lady concludes happily, fulfilling our expectations of a romantic happy ending by altering the terms.

As the curtain slowly falls, the orchestra plays "I Could Have Danced All Night." The music is stating the emotion that the characters are unable to.

Books on the Making of My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady - Loverly - Behind the scenes book Loverly: The Life and Times of My Fair Lady (Broadway Legacies)

From Oxford University Press, July 9, 2012. Dominic McHugh has written a comprehensive account of the making of My Fair Lady. His stories are not based on Lerner's 1978 memoir. Rather, he gives a new, behind-the-scenes look at the five-year creation of the show, and doesn't leave out the tensions that went into its making. 

The Making of My Fair Lady by Keith Garebian provides charming stories of what happened as Lerner and Loewe adapated Shaw's play Pygmalion.

Alan J Lerner Memoir On the Street The Street Where I Live - Lerner's memoir that tells his version of what happened during the making of My Fair Lady. 

 

DVD

My Fair Lady dvdMy Fair Lady (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD) from Amazon.com 1964 film version starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Restored special edition DVD includes: Commentary by art director Gene Allen, singer Marni Nixon and restoration team Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz; 1994 Documentary, "More Loverly Than Ever: The Making of My Fair Lady"; Vintage Featurettes - 1963 production kickoff dinner, Audio of George Cukor directing Baroness Bina Rothschild (with production stills), Posters and Lobby Cards with Rex Harrison Radio Interview, 'The Fairest Fair Lady' making-of featurette, Rex Harrison's Golden Globe Acceptance Speech, 37th Academy Awards highlights, LA Premiere Footage; 'Show Me' Galleries: Black and White Production Stills/Production Documents/Cecil Beaton Costume Sketches/Architectural Drawings/Poster and lobby cards; Audrey Hepburn's alternate vocals for 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly' and 'Show Me'; Comments by Martin Scorsese & Andrew Lloyd Webber; and The Trailers of Lerner and Loewe musicals

Cast Recordings

My Fair Lady Original Cast My Fair Lady (1956 Original Broadway Cast) from Amazon. com Starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. Remastered reissue edition includes two bonus tracks. Song include: Overture, Why Can't The English?, Wouldn't It Be Loverly, With An Ordinary Man, I'm An Ordinary Man, Just you Wait, The Rain In Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, Ascot Gavotte, On The Street Where You Live, You Did It, Show Me, Get Me To The Church On Time, A Hymn To Him, Without You, I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face, A Post-Recording Conversation (bonus track), and Playback: Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe (bonus track)

My Fair Lady London CastMy Fair Lady (London) from Amazon.com 2001 Royal National Theatre Production starring Jonathan Pryce. One of the most successful productions to hit the West End in years. Songs include: Prologue, Why Can't the English?, Wouldn't It Be Loverly?, With a Little Bit of Luck, I'm an Ordinary Man, Just You Wait, Poor Professor Higgins, Rain in Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, Ascot Gavotte, On the Street Where You Live, Eliza's Entrance, Embassy Waltz, You Did It, Show Me, Get Me to the Church on Time, Get Me to the Church on Time (Reprise), Hymn to Him, Without You, and I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face

Sheet Music and Libretto for My Fair Lady

Pygmalion and My Fair Lady from Amazon.com - This is Shaw's play script and libretto of the musical. For those working on an adaptation, this book provides an example.

My Fair Lady (Vocal Selections) from Musicnotes.comSongs include: I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face, On the Street Where You Live, Without You, Wouldn't It Be Loverly, Get Me To the Church on Time, The Rain In Spain, Just You Wait, I Could Have Danced All Night, Why Can't the English?, Show Me, and With a Little Bit of Luck. Instant digital download sheet music.

My Fair Layd vocal scoreMy Fair Lady (Vocal Score) from Amazon.com

Music Notes Broadway Sheet Music banner.

Add Your Comments

If you are involved with writing musicals, and would like to add comments that we could post here, please email them to carol@musicalschwartz.com with the word "Comments" in the subject line of your email.


To send suggestions, comments, or questions write to carol@musicalschwartz.com with the word "QUESTION" or "COMMENT" in the subject line.

Loverly: The Life and Times of My Fair Lady - a complete Behind-the-scenes book.

 

Go behind the scenes.

 


Navigation (pages in this section followed by main site navigation)

Study Musicals Section

Site Information

  1. Site map
  2. About this site
  3. Privacy
  4. Copyright
  5. Contact

Skip following links to other sites and resources to main site navigation