News Column

10 cool facts about the classic musical 'My Fair Lady'

August 1, 2013


Aug. 01--The classic musical "My Fair Lady" is getting two lavish productions in Oregon this year. The Broadway Rose Theatre Company unveils its traditional interpretation of the show on Friday, while the Oregon Shakespeare Festival continues its stripped-down version of the show through November.

Before seeing either production, check out these fascinating facts about the show and its lasting-impact on American musical theater.

1. Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and songwriter Frederick Loewe weren't the first people to attempt to turn George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" into a musical. The musical team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II tried and gave up.

2. Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews weren't the first choices to play Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in the original 1956 Broadway production. The leads were first offered to British playwright and actor N el Coward and musical theater star Mary Martin. Both turned down the roles, though Coward recommended Harrison for the part.

3. The show won six Tony Awards, and received four more nominations. In the outstanding musical category it beat impressive competition: "Bells Are Ringing," "Candide" and "The Most Happy Fella."

4. The original production ran for 6-1/2 years, for a total of 2,717 performances, which made it the longest-running Broadway musical at the time.

5. The musical has had three Broadway revivals -- in 1976, 1981 and 1993 -- though all were short-lived.

6. The original Broadway cast recording spent 480 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, including 15 weeks at No. 1.

7. The song "On the Street Where You Live" almost instantly became a standard of American popular song after Vic Damone recorded it in 1956, taking it to No. 4 on the Billboard pop chart. Since then it has been interpreted by many jazz singers, including Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Harry Connick Jr.

8. The 1964 film adaptation was a major hit, earning a then-remarkable $72 million at the box office. Adjusted for inflation, it's the 56th-highest-grossing film of all time. The film won eight Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor for Harrison's re-creation of his Broadway performance.

9. Andrews was passed over for Eliza in the film version, with producers casting the more-bankable Audrey Hepburn. But Hepburn's singing was inadequate, and her songs were dubbed by singer Marni Nixon. Andrews instead made her film debut (and did all her own singing) in "Mary Poppins," winning the best actress Oscar. Hepburn wasn't even nominated.

10. You haven't seen the last of "My Fair Lady" on Broadway. Music producer Clive Davis is working on a big-budget revival for 2014, and who might play Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle is one of the theater world's biggest guessing games right now. British actors Colin Firth and Ralph Fiennes have been mentioned as possibilities for Henry, while speculation has centered on Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway as Eliza.

-- Grant Butler

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