My Fair Lady opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on 15 March 1956 and closed on 29 September 1962. It had run for 2,717 performances. It ran again from 30 April 1958 for five and a half years, totalling over 2281 performances.
The sight of the cover for this album, emulating, exactly, the original Columbia LP, released in 1956, will undoubtedly resonate with an older generation. How well I remember those days in the late 1950s when, here in England, we heard My Fair Lady’s wealth of memorable songs everywhere: ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly,’ ‘With a Little Bit of Luck,’ ‘The Rain in Spain,’ ‘I Could Have Danced All Night,’ ‘On the Street Where You Live,’ ‘Show Me,’ ‘Get Me to the Church on Time,’ and ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’. I recall quite vividly, as a student, dancing – probably very badly – cheek-to-cheek (when allowed) with young women. Most of them were dreaming of a rich white knight who would rescue them from the tedium of the typing pool. These tunes were being played in varying tempi for ‘smoochers’ on crowded dance floors at Wembley and Kensington Town Halls when the latter, long ago, was in Kensington High Street opposite the then Barkers Department Store.
The show was perfectly cast. Rex Harrison, was infuriatingly superior as the self-satisfied Henry Higgins determined to make a lady of the cockney flower seller, Julie Andrews. The tessitura for Harrison’s role was organised so as not to strain his limited vocal range yet allowing him room to express his character gloriously. Sweet-voiced Julie Andrews was simply magnificent letting her aitches drop and mangling her English in the early songs and later enunciating so properly, and ecstatically falling in love to ‘I Could Have danced All Night.’ What a shame Julie was not cast as Eliza in the film of My Fair Lady, but that’s another story, often told. Stanley Holloway was truly memorable as Alfred P. Doolittle, the rascally, dissolute father of Eliza. John Michael King shone as Eliza’s upper class suitor, Freddy Eynsford–Hill ardently delivering that show-stopper, ‘On the Street Where You Live’.
Two jewels of this album are the two bonus tracks. On the first, Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, in conversation, discuss their favourite numbers from the show. We learn, amazingly, that Julie was only twenty years old when this recording was made … and Rex 35. Alan J Lerner makes a witty contribution too. The other bonus track includes an interview with Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Lowe covering how the show was developed. They cover the construction of the songs - which comes first, the words or the tune? – and choice of title. We also hear something of their other shows including Gigi and Camelot.
This Fair Lady will deliver a wonderfully nostalgic glow.
Why Can’t the English?
Wouldn’t it be Loverly?
With a Little Bit of Luck
I’m an Ordinary Man
Just You Wait
The Rain in Spain
I Could Have Danced All Night
On the Street Where You Live
You Did It
Get Me To The Church On Time
A Hymn to Him
I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face
A post recording conversation
Playback: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe