My Fair Lady

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My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so she can pass as a proper lady.

The musical's 1956 Broadway production was a hit, setting what was then the record for the longest run of any major musical theater production in history. It was followed by a hit London production, a popular film version, and numerous revivals. It has been called "the perfect musical".[1]

Contents

Background

In the mid-1930s, film producer Gabriel Pascal acquired the rights to produce film versions of several of George Bernard Shaw's plays, Pygmalion among them. However, Shaw, having had a bad experience with The Chocolate Soldier, a Viennese operetta based on his play Arms and the Man, refused permission for Pygmalion to be adapted into a musical. After Shaw died in 1950, Pascal asked lyricist Alan Jay Lerner to write the musical adaptation. Lerner agreed. Lerner and his partner Frederick Loewe began work, but they quickly realized the play violated several key rules for constructing a musical: the main story was not a love story, there was no subplot or secondary love story, and there was no place for an ensemble. Many people, including Oscar Hammerstein II, who, with Richard Rodgers, had also tried his hand at adapting Pygmalion into a musical and had given up, told Lerner that converting the play to a musical was impossible, so he and Loewe abandoned the project for two years. During this time, the collaborators separated, and Gabriel Pascal died. Lerner had been trying to musicalize Lil' Abner when he read Pascal's obituary and found himself thinking about Pygmalion again. When he and Loewe reunited, everything seemed to fall into place. All the insurmountable obstacles that stood in their way two years earlier disappeared when the team realized that the play needed few changes, and according to Lerner, "All we had to do was add what Shaw had happening offstage". They then excitedly began writing the show.

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