Julie Andrew to direct "My Fair Lady"August 12, 2015
It was 1956, in Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, when the pre-Broadway tryout of "My Fair Lady" was being held. Rex Harrison, who played phoneticist Henry Higgins, was having pre-production jitters. Rehearsals didn't go smoothly, as the actor hated Julie Andrews. She was Eliza Doolittle in a modern update of "Pygmalion". Alan Jay Lerner, who wrote the musical and provided the lyrics, didn't have any doubt on Andrews. Fans were reminded of Charlie Chaplin, and her experience in vaudeville was the reason why the tryout was the success. In fact, many lauded Lerner's production, calling it the perfect musical.
"My Fair Lady" was revived countless times, even adapted into a film. The casting process was controversial, as Audrey Hepburn was chosen to play Doolittle. Andrews wasn't a star back then, but she won an Academy Award for "Mary Poppins". (Hepburn didn't earn a nomination.) As for Harrison, he reprised his Broadway role, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor.
There are plans to remake the film, with Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan being considered to play Doctor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle respectively. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay. If it's done, how will it fare against the previous adaptations?
Sydney Opera House turns 60
2016 marks the 60th anniversary of the first staging of Lerner's production, and Sydney Opera House will bring the play to Sydneysiders (and the rest of the home fans who know the lyrics by heart). And nothing can be better than Andrews directing it. The actress will travel to Australia this November to cast the production, and John Frost, who is producing it, is thrilled about it.
"To think that Broadway's original Eliza Doolittle, Julie Andrews, will direct our new production at the Sydney Opera House 60 years later will, I'm sure, excite both Australian and international audiences," said Frost.
Henry Higgins was an arrogant fellow who disdained the likes of Eliza Doolittle. ("She's so deliciously low, so horribly dirty!") She was a flower girl, and the opportunity to become a respectable lady was unplanned for. There was unease from the very beginning, and it wasn't different off stage. It would be hard to tell if Harrison learned to respect Andrews. Those who knew the actor didn't speak warmly of him, but the outcome might have been different if he didn't play Higgins.
As for Andrews, many believed she was the perfect choice for Doolittle. Perhaps her humble upbringing helped her (in playing the role). It would be pointless to debate if Hepburn shouldn't be cast in the Warner Bros. production, but the fans would always think of Andrews. The next actress to Eliza Doolitle will have big shoes to fill.
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