BWW Interview: Gayton Scott of MY FAIR LADY at Peace Center
Gayton Scott is a veteran of Broadway, television, and film. She's even appeared at Greenville's Peace Center before, in the touring production of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. But her next visit to Greenville will be a very memorable one, a first in her stellar career.
Here in Greenville, while Scott is on stage performing the role of Mrs. Pearce, Henry Higgins' housekeeper in Lerner and Loewe's classic musical MY FAIR LADY, her brother will be playing bass in the pit orchestra.
"My brother, Ian, lives in Greenville," Scott told me in a recent telephone interview. Her brother Ian Bracchitta is assistant principal bassist for the Greenville Symphony, as well as an adjunct faculty member at Furman and the Governor's School. "We can't believe it, that after all these years we're actually getting to work together! It's amazing!"
Scott and her brother grew up in the vicinity of New York City, where she still lives. But now she's on the road in a gorgeous new production of MY FAIR LADY, starring Shereen Ahmed as Eliza Doolittle and Laird Mackintosh as Henry Higgins. The director is the legendary Bartlett Sher, who also directed the acclaimed new adaptation of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD still running on Broadway.
I asked Gayton Scott to tell us about working with Sher and the experience of breathing new life into a classic musical.
BWW: How much did you get to work with Bartlett Sher?
All the principals were called five days before the entire cast, and we had five days around the table, just to do the table work. We literally read through the script. And then Bart was with us for the entire rehearsal period, once the entire cast was there. And he's wonderful because as we would get to every scene, he would dismiss everyone and keep just the people in the scene, and then you'd sit there and read the scene and talk about it and talk about it and talk about it. And then he'd give some direction and say, "Okay, let's do it again. Let's get it on its feet." And it's interesting - you're doing something that this director has already done, but he wasn't necessarily married to anything. So that was wonderful for us, because he would open it up and say, "Well, what do you think? I don't know. Do you want to do that? Okay, fine let's try that. Let's see what that is."
Wow. It's amazing that for something like this revival, that really made a big impression on Broadway, that he was still allowing you to make new choices and discoveries.
Yeah, it was wonderful. It was great for us, you know. He very much wants you to do your show, which is wonderful because not everyone's like that. They kind of want you to replicate. So we all felt real lucky in that regard, I think. And it was a slightly different process for the people who had done it on Broadway, because of the set. The great Michael Yeargan did the set -- and our whole design team is amazing, I don't know how many Tony Awards they have between them, but I think [Costume Designer] Catherine Zuber has seven alone on her own -- but anyway, because, of course, this set has to travel and fit different sized stages, Michael Yeargan had to make modifications. So it ended up being a little bit trickier and a bit of an adjustment for the people who'd done the show on Broadway, because this set is smaller. But it's a large, brilliant ensemble. You know, a musical is always amazing because it takes a village between the cast and the crew. You're traveling with a lot of people.
Did you see the show when it was on Broadway?
I did. And it was amazing because my brother Ian's daughter, Emily, is a senior at Clemson and for the last couple of years on her spring break she's come and stayed with me in New York. And I always say to her, well, what do you want to see? I said, I got us two tickets for WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME, and is there something else that you'd love to see? And she said, "Oh, I'd love to see that MY FAIR LADY." This was back in March. And I said to her, okay, great. And so I ended up seeing it, and then literally like a month later, I have this call to go in and audition for it. So I did get to see it in New York. At that point Laura Benanti had taken over for Lauren Ambrose. And the great Rosemary Harris was playing Mrs. Higgins. And we saw Danny Burstein as Dolittle, and we loved it. We thought it was just - it was beautiful.
How do you think it compares, the translation into a touring-sized show?
When you're in a thing, it's hard to be objective about it. But of course the show physically looks the same. The design is the same, the costumes are the same, the lights. I think our production is beautiful, I really do and I thought that about the Broadway production, too. You know, I think it's interesting being in a classic, because you assume it's like being in ROMEO AND JULIET or HAMLET - you assume that people know the story. And in this case, also that they know the music, because the music is so iconic and famous. But it was funny, two nights ago, sitting in house left, right in the front row, was this little boy. And he was adorable. He was maybe 10 or 15. At curtain call you can kind of see the front row, and he was adorable sitting there house left, and I felt, well, who knows, this might be his first exposure to this. You know? It's amazing. And I remember as a kid, listening to the album of the original Broadway production. It's so funny - when I took my niece Emily to see it last March and the Overture started, I unexpectedly got choked up. I had to choke back tears because I was like, Oh my God. I mean, it's so iconic. And believe it or not, I don't think, Neil, that I had ever seen MY FAIR LADY on stage.
I'm trying to think back if I've ever actually seen a full production and of course I know the music backwards and forwards and I've seen the movie many, many times, but actually seeing it on stage? I don't know.
Well, I realized it, too. I had never seen MY FAIR LADY on stage. So it was amazing to see it and now it's equally amazing to actually be in it.
What do you think it is about this music and this story that makes it so iconic?
Well, I think that it's written - all of it, within an inch of its life - so brilliantly. I mean, you start with the Shaw, which, let's face it, is pretty hard to beat. There's so much there. Last night, we had finished my first scene in the show, and I was standing there on stage listening to the dialogue, you know, being in the scene. And I just thought, when I got off stage, I love being in it, because it's so alive. The language is so fantastic. And it's such a universal and hopeful story in a way. It's funny, the other night towards the end of Act One, when Eliza comes out in her gown ready for the Embassy Ball, I lead Shereen out - I open the door and out she comes, and she is exquisite in every way. This young lady in this part - she's just a fantastic, naturally gifted actor and sings like a dream and looks like a milion and one dollars, just gorgeous. Anyway, I opened the door and out she stepped and it got a round of applause! And the two of us, well, my eyes filled up with tears. And the two of us looked at each other and we were like, Oh my God! It's such an amazing story. And then of course, you have Lerner and Loewe which, again, hard to beat. Every night I listen to the music and I kind of come in and out in "The Street Where You Live," Freddie and I have a couple little scenes within that song. And I listened to Sam Simahk - our Freddie Eynsford-Hill, who's just perfection - I listen to him every night because I'm waiting for my cue, and I just think, what a glorious song. The lyric is perfection. "Are there lilac trees in the heart of town/Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?" You just listen to it and it's so glorious.
I love that you can still feel that way about it. That even being inside of it, you can still feel that way about these songs.
Oh, yeah. I definitely do. When you're working in something like this, you go wow, aren't I lucky? You know, to be part of something that is so beautifully wrought, as this show is. I mean, it's stunning. And every night, even like the eighth show of the week and you're tired, you hear it and you think, wow, fantastic. You know? Because you're not always in something that's good. So when you are in something that's good, with fantastically talented people, with a design team like this, you just -- you feel lucky.
MY FAIR LADY runs January 28 to February 2 at The Peace Center in Greenville, SC. For tickets and additional information, contact the box office at 864.467.3000 or visit peacecenter.org.