My Fair Lady – Broadway Revival Cast Recording 1976
It is a cold march night in London, early in the last century. Professor Henry Higgins is taking notes on the speech patterns of the Englishmen and women who have emerged from Covent Garden after the opera. By chance he finds himself face to face with another of the English-speaking world’s great authorities, Colonel Pickering. Higgins expounds to Pickering on the social inequalities that Englishmen impose on the many different ways they speak. Their speech immediately classifies them as members of a social and economic caste – “Why Can’t the English.” A girl selling flowers attracts his attention. Higgins brags to Pickering that he could take this lowly flower girl and make her into a lady by teaching her how to speak like one. The girl, Eliza Doolittle, is intrigued. She need no longer be a simple flower seller. She might open her own shop. As Higgins and Pickering leave her to her dreams and her gutter-English she finds herself wishing not so much for her own shop as a steady supply of chocolates and somewhere warm to sit – “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.” Her father, Alfred P. Doolittle, a common dustman, is quite proud of his daughter and frequently seeks her company, especially when he and his cronies are out of pocket during their nightly rounds of the pubs. Content that he has given her “the gift of life,” Doolittle comes around now to take a little of her night’s profits – “With A Little Bit of Luck.” Next day, Eliza appears at Higgins’s Wimpole Street home (where Pickering is lodging as a guest) to ask him to teach her proper diction. He agrees, and she is packed off to be scrubbed and properly dressed by Higgins’s housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce. Very quickly, however, Higgins begins to find Eliza’s Cockney mannerisms and street moralities more exasperating than he had imagined, and he begins to regret the day he let “a woman in his life” – “I’m an Ordinary Man.” Eliza, in her turn, is nearly driven to distraction by his incessant speech instruction and his high-and-mighty treatment. What she had expected to be flattering self-improvement has turned out to be a form of persecution – “Just You Wait.” Weeks later, when tempers and tolerance are frayed to the breaking point, Higgins’s unrelenting instruction and Eliza’s good musical ear pay off. The moment – one of the most celebrated in musical theater history – is an explosion and a triumph – “The Rain in Spain.” Higgins and Pickering are gratified, and even exultant. Mrs. Pearce is thrilled for Eliza. As for Eliza herself, she is so far off the ground she cannot get back down, much less go to bed – “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Higgins is impatient to get his charge out into public and test her. He takes her to opening day at Ascot, Britain’s poshest racetrack. Though she gets a bit carried away during the second race, she manages to attract the bug-eyed attention of eligible young bachelor Freddy Eynsford-Hill – “Ascot Gavotte.” Freddy, for all his good looks, breeding and manners, is living proof that to be wellborn is not at all the same thing as to be intelligent. However, he has a certain doglike loyalty and, having once delivered flowers to Eliza’s door, never wants to leave – “On the Street Where You Live.” At long last, Eliza is ready for the acid test, an appearance on Higgins’s arm at the annual Embassy ball, where she must perform under the unsympathetic eye of Zoltan Karpathy, a Hungarian master of speech who uses his expertise to expose and embarrass others, if not blackmail them. Karpathy is the closest thing to a villain that My Fair Lady possesses – “Embassy Waltz.” Eliza succeeds brilliantly. After the ball, Higgins and Pickering are too busy congratulating each other on their triumph to notice that Eliza is steaming mad at being ignored by them – “You Did It.” Eliza rushes from the house and, inevitably, runs right into Freddy. He professes his love for her, his adoration, his awe of her beauty, his delight in her voice, his . . . But by this time Eliza has begun to suspect that he, like Higgins, is all talk – “Show Me.” Higgins has quietly worked another miracle on Eliza’s father. Amused by his antic philosophy, Higgins has recommended Doolittle to an American philanthropist who has been looking for a moralist of original ideas to endow him with a large sum of money. Grumbling at being hoisted into the middle class, Alfred P. comes to celebrate his last night of riotous freedom. He is marrying Eliza’s stepmother – “Get Me to the Church on Time.” Awakening in the morning, Higgins finds Eliza gone. He cannot understand it. She should have been grateful, and full of praise before the men who have done so much for her. Why shouldn’t she behave in a logical, clearheaded unemotional fashion, like a man, he asks Pickering and Mrs. Pearce – “A Hymn to Him.” Higgins locates her, at last, at his mother’s house, where she has gone for a little sympathy and human warmth. She refuses his offer of a truce if she will just “stop behaving like a fool” and points out to him that much of normal life would still go on without his willing it – “Without You.” Higgins is unshaken. After all, is Eliza anything more than “a habit I can always break”? And yet, walking back to his house, he finds himself reminiscing about the various ways she has subtly affected his life – “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” That night, Higgins is ruefully listening to early recordings of Eliza’s voice lessons when she quietly re-enters his sitting room. He beams silently, and easing himself into his armchair just asks, “Eliza? Where the devil are my slippers?” And the curtain falls.
Buskers: Debra Lyman, Stan Pincus, Ernie Pysher Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: Eleanor Phelps Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Jerry Lanning Eliza Doolittle: Christine Andreas Colonel Pickering: Robert Coote Henry Higgins: Ian Richardson First Cockney: Kevin Marcum Second Cockney: Jack Starkey Third Cockney / Flunky: William James Fourth Cockney / Footman: Stan Page Bartender / Footman: Kevin Lane Dearinger Harry / Lord Boxington / Zoltan Karpathy: John Clarkson Jamie / Ambassador: Richard Neilson Alfred P. Doolittle: George Rose Mrs. Pearce: Sylvia O’Brien Mrs. Hopkins / Lady Boxington: Margaretta Warwick Butler / Bartender: Clifford Fearl Servants: Sonja Anderson, Lynn Fitzpatrick, Karen Gibson, Vickie Patik, Kevin Lane Dearinger Mrs. Higgins: Brenda Forbes Chauffeur: Jack Karcher Constable: Timothy Smith Flower Girl: Dru Alexandrine Queen Of Transylvania: Karen Gibson Mrs. Higgins’s Maid: Sonja Stuart Singing Ensemble: Sonja Anderson, Alyson Bristol, Lynn Fitzpatrick, Karen Gibson, Cynthia Meryl, Vickie Patik, Kevin Lane Dearinger, Clifford Fearl, William James, Kevin Marcum, Stan Page, Jack Starkey