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My Fair Lady is one of the most vaunted musicals of all time. The original production won multiple Tonys, spawned an Oscar-sweeping film, and brought songs like “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” into our lives. This past spring, it returned to Broadway in a gorgeous revival, which was nominated for a whopping ten Tonys. The Knick team has heard nothing but rave reviews since its opening, so we decided to head to the Lincoln Center Theater to see for ourselves. Here’s what we loved about My Fair Lady on Broadway.
Lauren Ambrose opened as Eliza Doolittle, and picked up an Outer Critics Circle Award (along with Tony and Drama League noms). Sadly for My Fair Lady audiences, both she and Mrs. Higgins original Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones fans will recognize the veteran actress as the fierce Lady Olenna) have both departed from the revival. Luckily, for My Fair Lady audiences, their replacements are stellar: Laura Benanti as Eliza, and Rosemary Harris as Mrs. Doolittle. We last saw Tony-winning Benanti in Meteor Shower opposite Amy Schumer, commenting how she stole the show then. She does so again now, bringing a feisty energy—not to mention her powerhouse vocals—to Eliza. Harris, too, is a welcome addition. The Tony-, Emmy- and four-time Drama Desk Award-winner, is at once hilarious and heartwarming as the ever-gracious Mrs. Higgins.
Besides these two newcomers to the show, its cast has remained remarkably stable since opening. As Mr. Higgins, Harry Hadden-Paton shines (earning Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle noms along the way). He’s biting, with flawless timing and a winning mixture of haughtiness and hidden vulnerability. And as Eliza’s lush of a father, Norbert Leo Butz is an impressive force on stage, with his agile dancing and caustic humor.
The entire cast blends together in this silky production, where the house staff, street vendors, and London’s high society come to life through a busy ensemble.
“I Could Have Danced All Night” was in our heads long after the night ended. You know the songs from the 1964 film with Audrey Hepburn, but they’re so much more moving when seen onstage. Here’s a preview from this year’s Tony awards (showing Lauren Ambrose instead of Laura Benanti, but you get the idea).
Some shows that take place during the Belle Epoque go the minimalistic route of hinting at the scenery. Not so with My Fair Lady. The play opens on the streets outside of Covent Garden in London. It’s a beautiful beginning, but one that doesn’t prepare the audience for the sheer scale of the rest of the set, which earned the musical a Tony nomination. When the backdrop rises and Mr. Higgins’s house appears, The Knick team audibly gasped—and weren’t alone. The groups next to us did too, and many in the audience began clapping. The Ascot racetrack is ingeniously simple, but beautiful as well, as is the ball scene.
Costume designer Catherine Zuber added an 7th Tony to her growing mountain of awards with her rich costumes for My Fair Lady on Broadway. From the maid uniforms to the ball gowns and the over-the-top outfits for the iconic Ascot horse race scene, every look is eye-catching.
My Fair Lady can often come off as entirely behind the times: a wealthy man works to transform a poor women with zero agency of her own. But this production gives Eliza a strong sense of self, and makes pointed fun of Mr. Higgins and his ridiculous, misogynistic opinions. This revival of My Fair Lady is a celebration of Eliza, and one of the most enjoyable shows we’ve seen all year.
Head over to The Knick, just a few blocks away, for rooftop drinks atop Times Square at St. Cloud.
Looking for the right show to see? Let The Knick be your guide. Check out our reviews of some of Broadways biggest current hits, like Hamilton, Frozen, Come from Away, Once on This Island, Mean Girls, and more.