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Review Roundup: Did the Critics Have a Loverly Time at MY FAIR LADY?

Review Roundup: Did the Critics Have a Loverly Time at MY FAIR LADY?

Lincoln Center Theater's new production of Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady, officially opens tonight at the Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65 Street).

My Fair Lady, considered the most beloved musical of all time, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe, directed by Bartlett Sher, is Thursday, April 19.

Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady features a cast of 37 headed by Lauren Ambrose, Harry Hadden-Paton, Norbert Leo Butz, Diana Rigg, Allan Corduner, Jordan Donica, Linda Mugleston, and Manu Narayan. Harry Hadden-Paton and Diana Rigg are appearing with the support of Actors' Equity Association.

Adapted from George Bernard Shaw's play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lernerand music by Frederick Loewe, premiered on Broadway on March 15, 1956. The legendary original production won 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical and ran for 2,717 performances making it, at the time, the longest-running musical in Broadway history.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Jesse Green, The New York Times: The plush and thrilling Lincoln Center Theater revival of Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady" that opened on Thursday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater reveals Eliza Doolittle as a hero instead of a puppet - and reveals the musical, despite its provenance and male authorship, as an ur-text of the #MeToo moment. Indeed, that moment has made "My Fair Lady," which had its Broadway premiere in 1956, better than it ever was.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: The musical pulls out all the stops for a raucous production number, "Get Me to the Church on Time," which marks the begrudging transformation of Eliza's father (Norbert Leo Butz, with his usual impatience de vivre) from ne'er-do-well to well-to-do. But its default mode is elegance. Sher is acutely alert to the shifts of balance within both My Fair Lady itself and the way it plays to contemporary audiences, and nowhere is that clearer than in his clever solution to the show's notoriously slippery ending. This revival has devised a way to have its scone and eat it too.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: The changes are minor enough to go virtually unnoticed but sufficiently considered to fuel discussion among those convinced this light period piece has problems that needed addressing. Beyond that, it's a polished production with an accomplished - if not spectacular - cast. But it doesn't come close to the sweeping cinematic fluidity of Sher's best work, which filled the immense Beaumont stage with a majestic breadth seldom equaled. Nor does it approach the thrilling emotional engagement of those earlier shows.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: The production is colossal: Michael Yeargen's set includes several superfluous rooms in professor Higgins' house, the fast-tracked arrival of which makes full use of one of the deepest stages in the nation, plus several exteriors, including a grand vista of Covent Garden that looks precisely like the part of the old market where tourists and performers now gather. But it's also an uneasy combination of romantic realism, symbolism and miniaturization.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: If you've got it, flaunt it. The splendid Beaumont stage at Lincoln Center was made for great classic musicals like Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady," and helmer Bartlett Sher was born to stage them. This jubilant revival is meticulously mounted and entirely welcome - despite the eccentric casting choice of Lauren Ambrose as Eliza Doolittle.

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: This visual splendor would amount to nothing more than a momentary "Wow!" if Sher hadn't imbued the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe classic with performances that vividly conjure up George Bernard Shaw's original characters. Yes, the playwright never wanted his "Pygmalion" turned into a musical or a romance, but Sher's take on "My Fair Lady" brings the show closer to what the playwright had in mind.

Matt Windman, amNY: The revival has been staged in Sher's familiar style of making a classic feel fresh and dynamic without totally disregarding the original script and score, incorporating superb production values (including a two-story revolving set for Higgins' home) and bringing out layered performances from great actors.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, Newsday: Anticipation for the latest revival of "My Fair Lady" was high - the Lerner and Loewe classic, from 1956, had been absent from Broadway for nearly 25 years - but not entirely positive. After all, the story of a Cockney flower girl being bullied into learning upper-class speech by an abrasive male professor could feel out of touch, to put it mildly, in our modern climate. Happily, this Lincoln Center Theater production starring Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Paton is everything it needs to be, and quite a bit more.

Greg Evans, Deadline: While Carousel spins its gorgeous melodies and troublesome social politics in Midtown Manhattan, My Fair Lady, its lighter-hearted companion in the Big Book of treasured musicals toting outdated notions, has opened some 20 blocks north in a sumptuous Lincoln Center Theater production, its cast of 37 led by a tempestuous Lauren Ambrose and, in his Broadway debut, Harry Hadden-Paton, best known stateside for a Prince Charming turn on Downton Abbey but here making a right turn by going full-bore, unapologetic cad as that most arrogant of misogynists, Professor Henry Higgins.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: Bartlett Sher's glowing revival of Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady has arrived at Lincoln Center to prove that it can be done. A beloved musical from another era can keep on kicking, and, as is the case here, it can even do so without making radical shifts in aesthetic, as long as it's got its eyes wide open.

Jess Cagle, Entertainment Weekly: Higgins is as always a comically insufferable narcissist but Hadden-Paton (who played Bertie Pelham on Downton Abbey) gives him a shot of sex appeal, which helps. Norbert Leo Butz, as Eliza's foolish father, gives a showstopping performance. But this revival really seems to draw its energy from the women - from Ambrose's damaged and determined Eliza, as well as Diana Rigg (Diana Rigg!) as the dry, wise, seen-it-all queen of common sense, Mrs. Higgins. Their spirit, and their refusal to allow the ridiculous impulses of men go unchecked, points to the irony in the title: Sure she's fair, but she does not belong to you.

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: A splendiferous layer cake with a bittersweet core, Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady has returned to Broadway in a smashing new production from Bartlett Sher (The Sound of Music, The King and I). Expertly acted, pleasingly sung, and often visually splendid, it makes a good faith attempt to honor the show's history and intentions while also acknowledging the charged sexual politics of the moment. If its ending still doesn't satisfy, maybe that's because no My Fair Lady ending can.

Diane Snyder, The Telegraph: But what's especially lovely (or should that be "loverly"?) is watching the tempestuous pair gradually fall in love. Ambrose brings a beautiful voice and a winning combination of humor, pluck and fragility to the role. Hadden-Paton mitigates some of Higgins's fury by yelling at Eliza in a tone that's more playful than patriarchal. Although the character is still a bundle of rage at times, it's clear his feelings for Eliza run deep.

Steven Suskin, New York Theatre Review: Wouldn't it be loverly to have Lerner & Loewe's magical My Fair Lady back on Broadway? And wouldn't it be "warm and tender" if it were a tasteful staging which captured the style and grace of the fabled original? Well, Bartlett Sher's new staging at the Vivian Beaumont is and does. The Lincoln Center Theater My Fair Lady is absobloominutely loverly, and you can quote me on that.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: Director Bartlett Sher's last spectacular revival at this address was The King and I, which is preparing to transfer to the London Palladium. He is now helming a Rolls Royce production of My Fair Lady, in Broadway's fourth revival of the title since the original production. It positively glows with class, shimmering with confidence and oozing with delight. But Sher also maintains the show's pertinent astringency, as it portrays how Professor Henry Higgins - a stubborn mule of a confirmed bachelor linguist who treats Eliza Doolittle as little more than a project to be manipulated and re-trained - is wrong-footed when she finally melts his own surprised heart. British actor Harry Hadden-Paton brings a nicely youthful yet appropriately flummoxed air to the role, and in what appears to be his first musical, carries the songs with conviction, too.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Of all the great Broadway musicals of the postwar era, "My Fair Lady" is the only one that takes a major work of literature, George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," and turns it into an equally distinguished musical that is true to the spirit and letter of its source material.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: New York audiences who've seen recent productions of "The King and I" and "South Pacific" have grown accustomed to director Bartlett Sher's ability to breathe fresh and thoughtful life into classics. He does it again - mostly. But the show also jars. Primarily that's due to casting a younger Henry Higgins (Harry Haddon-Paton), the upper-crust professor, and an older Eliza Doolittle (Lauren Ambrose), the naive Cockney flower girl he bets he can change - and does. If the idea was to make the story that unfolds in 1913 London sexier, no such luck.

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