BWW Interview: MY FAIR LADY's Shereen Ahmed On the Importance of Eliza Doolittle for the Modern Age
New York City based actress and singer, Shereen Ahmed, has been part of the ensemble of My Fair Lady since the revival at Lincoln Center Theater premiered and more recently was cast as the understudy for the part of Eliza Doolittle. This past weekend, Ahmed had the exciting opportunity to step into the shoes of this iconic leading lady and experience life in the Edwardian era. BroadwayWorld spoke with the talented Ahmed about her personal highlights of the show since its inception; learning from the great Laura Benanti; and why this current revival is perfect for the modern age.
Congratulations! You've been with My Fair Lady since the very beginning and have recently celebrated one year on Broadway! What has your experience been like and what was the most exciting part about going on as Eliza this past weekend?
It's been an incredible experience - I'm so grateful! My Fair Lady has been in my life for such a long time - since I was a kid. I've always admired Eliza because of her resilience and ability to persist, no matter what life throws at her. Her journey is just so beautiful, and she is able to face any type of obstacle with grace. It's easy for musicals to romanticize things, but I love that this revival is through Eliza's lens -- she looks discrimination and sexism in the face and is unstoppable. It's so perfect for this day and age.
It's been unbelievable to spend time with and learn from the great Laura Benanti! She has been so gracious and wonderful. I've really admired her character and have absorbed so much just by watching her - especially witnessing how she moves through each day with passion, grace, respect, and strength. I'm reminded of the fact that hard work always pays off and Laura makes me want to work harder - she is present in each moment and a tremendous role model. I can't say enough how grateful I am for this entire cast - they've been so supportive and loving. We're truly a family.
The score is absolutely breathtaking! Is there a favorite song that has been a dream to sing on stage?
There are so many great ones! I've been singing, "I Could Have Danced All Night" since I was little, and each time, the meaning has changed -- depending on the period in my life. When I was a kid, I loved twirling around to it and using my imagination as I prepared to drift off to sleep, and as I've gotten older, it has meant much more in terms of love and devotion. Right now, it's been about finding my truth and celebrating that!
In the show, it's such a pivotal moment for Eliza - she's not afraid to take a risk and soak up the moment. She is this beautiful, vulnerable human being who is on her own journey.
I love how inclusive the production is, in terms of diverse casting. Can you talk about why that's important for today's theater industry?
Lincoln Center Theater is such a pioneer in the theater industry and by bringing back a revival and casting talent from all different backgrounds is so incredible to experience. I grew up Muslim and am of Egyptian descent and know that I would have benefitted from seeing someone on stage who looked like me. The story speaks to all of us and it's such a gift to come together, under Bartlett Sher's direction, and is so reflective of the principles of Lincoln Center Theater - to ensure inclusivity and equity in theater and the arts.
What do you think new generations can take away from a story as classic as My Fair Lady?
My Fair Lady is so timeless and it's so exciting to see new generations come to the show and take it in for the first time. It's inspiring for children and teenagers to see Eliza go through this journey and learn how to use her voice. Even though she is meant to go through this transformative experience, through her work with Professor Henry Higgins, Eliza remains the same and doesn't lose what makes her unique. I'd say that one of the most powerful lessons in life is to always hold on to yourself!
For more information and to buy tickets, visit: http://www.myfairladybway.com/
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater