I am more of a Sweeney Todd and Fiddler on the Roof fan, but if you insisted that My Fair Lady is the great American musical, I wouldn’t argue with you, particular after seeing the extraordinary Lincoln Center revival Sunday.
Bartlett Sher, the Center’s resident directing marvel (South Pacific, Light in the Piazza, etc.) has created a knockout production, with eye-popping sets by Michael Yeargan, and first-rate performances by Harry Hadden-Paton (Henry Higgins), Lauren Ambrose (Eliza Doolittle), and Norbert Leo Butz (Eliza’s dad, Alfie).
I am quite familiar with the show, having played Alfie in college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1969 (What? You missed that production?) and some of the line readings at Lincoln Center, particularly as Eliza is struggling with proper English, are very original and very funny.
You probably know that the show begins outside the Covent Garden Opera House. Well, Sher begins with Eliza on a bare stage, after which the opera house glides into view and into place. I think I was hooked from there. More problematic is the way he ends the show, with an ambiguous exit by Eliza after obtuse Higgins asks her “Where the devil are my slippers?” but you need something to argue over in your cab ride home.
For My Fair Lady alone, get thee to Broadway this season.
Hap Erstein is on his annual New York tour for ArtsPaper. Follow his tweets @SirHapster.