My Fair Lady – Original London Cast Recording 1959
My Fair Lady, a variation on the legend of Pygmalion and Galatea in which a sculptor falls in love with a statue he has created himself, deals with an eminent professor of phonetics, Henry Higgins, who, on a wager with his friend Col. Pickering, suggests to a simple flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, that he can teach her the proper way of speaking and pass her off as a lady (“Why Can’t the English?”). At first uncertain about what this offer might mean to her, Eliza warms up to the idea and flirts lightly with it (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”), while not far from there, her father, Alfred P. Doolittle, a bon vivant and sometime philosopher, spends another joyous bachelor evening in a local pub, in the company of some of his cronies (“With a Little Bit of Luck”). The following morning, Eliza shows up at Higgins’s home, but her Cockney mannerisms and moralities become so exasperating to him that he nearly abandons the idea (“I’m an Ordinary Man”). She, in turn, is quickly driven to distraction by his thoughtless treatment and incessant coaxing (“Just You Wait”), despite Pickering’s admonitions to Higgins to treat her more humanly and not just as the object of an experiment. After weeks of grueling drillings, Eliza finally manages to learn the proper way to enunciate (“The Rain in Spain”); overwhelmed, Higgins and Pickering lead her into an exuberant celebration. Later that night, Eliza is still too exhilarated to go to sleep, despite the urgent calls of Mrs. Pearce, Higgins’ housekeeper, that she should be in bed (“I Could Have Danced All Night”). Soon after, Higgins decides it is time to introduce his protegee to society; he brings her to the Ascot Races, where she attracts the attentions of Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a young socialite, who becomes infatuated with her (“On the Street Where You Live”). But it takes several more months of hard work before Higgins feels confident enough for the big moment – that of taking Eliza to the Embassy ball attended by the cream of British society. Eliza succeeds beyond everyone’s expectations and is at once thought to be a foreign princess. Back from the ball, Higgins and Pickering congratulate each other for their brilliant mystification (“You Did It”), totally oblivious of Eliza and her own feelings. Hurt and angry, she rushes out of the house, only to run into Freddy who seizes the opportunity to profess his love. But Eliza brushes him aside (“Show Me”). In the meantime, Alfred P. Doolittle has a change of mind about his own situation, and decides that it is time he should marry the woman with whom he has been living for years. But not before he has spent a last night of revelry on the town (“Get Me to the Church on Time”). The following morning, Higgins discovers to his amazement that Eliza has flown the coop, and philosophically comments to Pickering about the inconsistencies in women (“A Hymn to Him”). Eventually, he finds Eliza at his mother’s home, where she has gone for warmth and sympathy, but she rejects his lame offers of truce (“Without You”), and snappily says she might marry Freddy. On his way back to his own house, Higgins suddenly realizes how much she has affected his own life, and how important she has become to him (“I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”). He is sitting at home, listening to the recordings of her voice, when she quietly enters the room. Smugly, Higgins slumps himself into an armchair, brings his hat down over his eyes, and simply says, with a triumphantly sarcastic tone, “Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?” as the curtain falls.
Henry Higgins: Rex Harrison Eliza Doolittle: Julie Andrews Alfred P. Doolittle: Stanley Holloway Colonel Pickering: Robert Coote Bartender: Bob Chisholm Mrs. Higgins: Zena Dare Harry: Alan Dudley Mrs. Pearce: Betty Woolfe Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Leonard Weir