Thursday, March 15, 2007
REMEMBERING THE PREMIERE ON BROADWAY OF LERNER & LOWE'S "MY FAIR LADY"
On this date: March 15thin 1956, one of the greatest musicals of all times premiered on the Broadway stage. It was of course Lerner & Lowe's "My Fair Lady" and starred Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and the incredible Stanley Holloway. The musical almost never came to fruition. A gentleman by the name of Gabriel Pasquale bought the rights from the George Bernard Shaw Estate in 1951. In 1952 he urged his good friend Alan Jay Lerner to make it into the musical he dreamed of making. But theatre was a dramatically different arena on Broadway in 1952. Many friends of Lerner including the amazing Oscar Hammerstein II urged him not to try any adaptation of this classic story in the 1952 world of Broadway. It would simply flop! In the original story by Bernard Shaw there was sub plot (aka the Freddy Farnsworth Hill --"On The Street Where You Live"story) Three years passed and in the interim, Lerner & Lowe famous for their fights had broken up during this period. As Lerner was reading Gabriel Pasquale obituary, he thought of the subplot of Freddy Farnsworth(mentioned in another Shaw short story) and called Frederick Lowe. They reconciled and Lerner wrote a brilliant libretto adaptation with the addition of the Ascot racing scene and the character of the mother of Henry Higgins played on Broadway by Catherine Nesbitt. The original musical production was directed and staged by the one and only Moss Hart who with George S. Kaufman wrote some of the most amazing comedies of all time including one of the funniest"George Washington Slept Here"and by himself "Light Up The Sky" I remember being involved in an amateur theatre of this great musical involving dear friends Gary Hamner, the late Ruth Ballanand a friend from Pasadena City College: Warren Chadwick. Kris Klain, daughter of a Social Studies teacher at Wilson High School played Eliza. And then my all time favorite actor from that period: Mr. John Higgins played Alfred P. Doolittle. How I miss all of my actor friends from that amazing little theatre group that was known as The Rafters. My little theatre days were indeed happy ones and I truly miss my late friends especially dear Elizabeth Gregory-- she was my mentor and probably the reason I love theatre so much to this day. God love you, Elizabeth wherever you may be. And of course I must mention dear George Von
Ravensberg and Jay Buck. All dear friends-- long gone-- but always cherished and remembered forever.