My Fair Lady



One of Broadway’s most popular productions is My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Leowe. It was originally based on Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw. The show’s Broadway premiere in 1956 marked the beginning of its historical success. My Fair Lady’s accomplishment in Broadway paved the way for several revivals and a popular film adaptation.

The musical is about a Cockney flower girl who, out of a wager between a phoneticist and a rich man, trains to become a lady. Eliza Doolittle meets Colonel Pickering and Henry Higgins by chance. Out of this encounter, Higgins points out that it is neither looks nor money that separates the social classes, but speech.

Higgins then proceeds to teach Eliza speech and eloquence, and on the day of the test, another trained phoneticist who used to be acquainted with Higgins fails to discover Eliza’s secret. Instead, he proclaims that Eliza is not just a lady; she is a princess.

The story picks up with Eliza feeling used and abandoned by Higgins. Eliza confronts Higgins, and he feels unsure about how to address the issue. Toward the end, Eliza goes back to Higgins, and the latter realizes how attached he has become to Eliza. The two reconcile, and the show ends by leaving its audience wondering what the future of the two will be.

In the Broadway musical, Eliza Doolittle was played by Julie Andrews. In the film, she was played by Audrey Hepburn. For both Broadway and film, Henry Higgins was played by Rex Harrison.


The original Broadway show has been recognized by several theater award-giving bodies and has won Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. It has also won a Tony Award for Best Direction, Best Choreography, and Best Scenic Design.

The film adaptation did not fall short of this glory as well. Having a very intricate production process (costume, set design, and production design) paid off very well for CBS, the film’s producer. My Fair Lady film has won eight Oscars, namely, Best Actor (for Rex Harrison), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Picture, and Best Sound. It has also won several Golden Globes and a BAFTA for Best Film from Any Source.


The production of My Fair Lady is truly an inspiration to the people of the performing-arts industry. It is an exemplar for anyone working in production, whether film or theater. It has set history and is difficult to equal.

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD