Ambrose? My Fair Lady Cast: Our “Loverly” Reactions
By now, we have all learned who will play the leads in the Bartlett Sher helmed My Fair Lady revival at Lincoln Center this spring. I must say, I was a bit surprised and somewhat underwhelmed, if only that I had some very strong opinions about who I would like to see cast. In the end, the cast we have has certainly proven themselves, time and again, on stage and screen. Lauren Ambrose will play Eliza Doolittle, Norbert Leo Butz will be her father Alfred P. Doolittle, and Harry Haden-Paton will play the plum role of Professor Henry Higgins. Joining them, in what is perhaps the most exciting casting choice is Diana Rigg as Henry’s mother, Mrs. Higgins.
My Fair Lady is a musical I have always put in a class by itself. It is elegant, intelligent, witty and wonderful. The Lerner and Loewe score is lush, sophisticated, and clever. Somehow this dynamic duo took a play (George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion) that most writing teams were afraid to touch. A few tried and failed, but Lerner and Loewe took a play that didn’t really lend itself to musicalization, and crafted what it arguably one of the finest musical theatre pieces of all-time. Our expectations were bound to be high for this revival cast. I apologize if I feel underwhelmed by those who were announced, and I look forward to Mr. Sher and company proving me wrong. I guess most of us just pictured something else.
I’m all about actors overcoming the restrictions of age when it can organically happen. I just find it particularly odd that Ambrose, who is 39, and Butz, who is 50, will be playing daughter and father. Both are terrific performers, and I am sure willing suspension of disbelief will win the day, but it is hard to process that Alfred P. Doolittle was 11 when he sired his darling Eliza. Perhaps I am being too literal? It is also interesting that Haden-Paton in a few years younger than Ambrose. Typically, My Fair Lady is cast with a younger Eliza and a much older Higgins. This will make for an interesting dynamic between the two characters, placing them within the same age bracket.
Mrs. Higgins is not a very big role. I am somewhat surprised that Diana Rigg would deign the role worthy of her talents. An actress of her caliber is most welcome in any production, so I am not upset to find her in the cast. I wish there were more to the character so that we could revel a little longer in her presence, but I suppose we will take what we can get.
My Fair Lady has gone from being the must-see production of 2018, to 2018’s biggest wild card. Bartlett Sher seldom disappoints, and My Fair Lady is the type of musical he regularly breathes new life into. Though I was looking for more breathtaking surprises in the cast announcements, it is impossible to imagine this production until it plays in front of us. Let’s hope that Ambrose and Haden-Paton have the chops to deliver on these two complex roles. The countdown to the spring has begun.