"Ow"Liza and the BBC Proms is doing "My Fair Lady"?

Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:51am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Eliza Doolittle will screech in Cockney and sing posh as the quintessential London musical "My Fair Lady", a product of the Broadway stage, makes its BBC Proms debut on Saturday in a lavish production that owes a debt to Hollywood.

A starry cast including West End regulars Annalene Beechey as Eliza, Anthony Andrews of "Brideshead Revisited" fame as speech instructor Professor Henry Higgins and Alun Armstrong as Eliza's philandering dad will be backed by a 70-piece orchestra conducted by musical-revival specialist John Wilson.

Wilson, who has a CD coming out in October of "Rodgers & Hammerstein: At the Movies", relishes the challenge of making "My Fair Lady" come alive in the cavernous space of the Royal Albert Hall on the opening weekend of the summer-long festival.

"The reason for choosing 'My Fair Lady' is that the theme running through the Proms season this year is London, because of the Olympics...and it's perfect from every angle. I've known and loved it all my life," Wilson said.

But isn't it - wasn't it - written by Americans, based on the play "Pygmalion" by the playwright George Bernard Shaw who was himself...Irish?

"It is essentially by Americans but Alan Jay Lerner (books and lyrics) was an American who was a lifelong anglophile and Frederick Loewe (music) was an American who was born Viennese and was essentially writing in a hybrid light operetta American musical comedy tradition.

"The play is about the power of language defining (English) classes, but I've always said this is an American musical. We've got an American choreographer and we'll be playing this in a very Hollywood-Broadway idiom. So I'd say it's a very happy marriage of the two," Wilson told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The Hollywood angle arises from Wilson's decision to use the lavish orchestrations arranged by composer-conductor Andre Previn for the 1964 Hollywood film rather than the original orchestrations from the smash 1956 Broadway hit, which was for a pit orchestra about a third the size.   Continued...