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My Fair Lady (Lincoln Center Theater)

The Lerner and Loewe classic receives the same luxurious and royal treatment director Bartlett Sher brought to his previous revivals at the Vivian Beaumont.

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Harry Hadden-Paton, Lauren Ambrose and Allan Corduner as they perform “The Rain in Spain” in the Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of “My Fair Lady” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

[avatar user=”David Kaufman” size=”96″ align=”left”] David Kaufman, Critic[/avatar]Inarguably one of the greatest musicals of all time, My Fair Lady is receiving the same luxurious and royal treatment director Bartlett Sher brought to his previous revivals of both South Pacific and The King and I, all at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. To paraphrase one of Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics from Camelot–another stunning musical he wrote with composer Frederick Loewe–it’s nothing less than “a sumptuous display.”

But also as directed, and one might say, “adapted” by Sher, the production departs from previous versions in one significant respect, which will not be revealed here. Let’s just say it reverts to the original ending of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, on which the musical was based.

To add that it’s sung and performed to perfection by Lauren Ambrose (as Eliza), Harry Hadden-Paton (as Higgins), Norbert Leo Butz (as Alfred P. Doolittle), Allan Corduner (as Colonel Pickering) and particularly Jordan Donica (as Freddy Eynsford-Hill)–not to mention Diana Rigg, making her Broadway comeback as Higgins’ mother–should confirm that it’s a must-see musical.

Norbert Leo Butz and company as they perform “Get Me to The Church on Time” in the Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of “My Fair Lady” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

With an enormous painted backdrop depicting London and featuring St. Paul’s Cathedral and a lamppost (the glorious sets have been designed by Michael Yeargan), the musical begins as Covent Garden pivots into view on a revolving stage. Though, from the moment that we see him in the opening scene, Hadden-Paton seems too young as Higgins in comparison to Rex Harrison, who originated the part, he is actually closer in age to Shaw’s intentions. He also sings more melodically than Harrison, who famously song-spoke his way through the role. Though Ambrose’s voice seems weak at first (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”), it gains in strength and stature as she proceeds.

Yeargan’s most outstanding scenic element is Higgins’ gigantic library and home, which slides onto the stage and also, eventually, rotates, revealing other rooms in the well-appointed house. It actually spins at a somewhat rapid clip, as Eliza makes her way from room to room, opening doors, while singing “Just You Wait.”

My Fair Lady, like Pygmalion, is first and last about the power dynamics between the upper and lower classes in Edwardian London, not to mention gender issues. And as many others have already noted, Sher’s production emphasizes Eliza’s ambitions to improve her lot in life, taking some of the responsibility away from Higgins.

Lauren Ambrose and Diana Rigg in a scene from the Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of “My Fair Lady” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

With Christopher Gattelli as choreographer, the dancing honors of the night go to Butz as Doolittle (“With a Little Bit of Luck” and, even more so, “Get Me to the Church on Time”), who is well supported by Joe Hart (as Harry) and Lance Roberts (as Jamie). But one might wish for more from “The Embassy Waltz” which opens the second act (with Manu Narayan as Zoltan Karpathy “oozing his way around the floor”) and for the “Ascot Gavotte,” which comes late in the first.

While Catherine Zuber’s costumes achieve the height of their magnificence for the “Ascot Gavotte,” Yeargan has oddly chosen not to set the scene with anything but a blue-lit, sky background, an awning, and some lawn chairs and tables, all of which are dwarfed by the enormous space at the Vivian Beaumont. (The lighting is by Donald Holder.)

Hoping to “give credit where credit is due,” Linda Mugleston also delivers a fine Mrs. Pearce, speaking in a real brogue. To sum up, Sher’s surefire hand with musicals makes this a My Fair Lady for the ages, just as it deserves to be.

My Fair Lady (through July 7, 2019)

Lincoln Center Theater in association with Nederlander Presentations, Inc.

Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 West 65th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit

Running time: two hours and 55 minutes including one intermission

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1 Comment on My Fair Lady (Lincoln Center Theater)

  1. The performance was great! However, the authorized ticket sales company used by the Vivian Beaumont theatre is difficult, does not follow through, does not know the theatre seating layout, misrepresented the seating drastically, never sent the credit card purchase confirmatiion as promised after triple verifying info, and switched me from one agent to another keeping me on the phone for 30 minutes. It ruined our theatre experience. We will never return to this theatre because so many on broadway exceed its layout, audio clarity, and overly elevated seating structure.

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