My Fair Lady


Scott asked. “Are we interested in free tickets to My Fair Lady?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

The last time Scott and I saw a Broadway play together was when South Pacific came to Lexington in January 2003. I remember the date so well because I thought I might be pregnant.

We had anticipated it for several weeks – the play, not the pregnancy scare – and I was wearing this gorgeous skirt and blazer that I had bought for my best friend’s rehearsal dinner a month before. The skirt was black polyester. The itchy kind. It came to my knees and ended in an elegant flare. The blazer was shiny white and probably also polyester, but smooth, not itchy. The play did not match the outer beauty of the clothes. As much as South Pacific has been one of my favorite musicals since I first heard Bali Hai on TV when I was 3 or 4, this production didn’t thrill me. Scott was completely unimpressed and thought it might have been the play that was the problem. I know the story, and I know it was the cast and production.

It left us flat, not the least because I spent the whole show obsessed with my clothing, which had never really fit very well to begin with. The blazer was too tight, and the top button was right across my G cups. I had to wear a giant pin to keep my bra from showing. But it was beautiful, it looked good on me, and it drove me crazy that it felt too tight in January, when I hadn’t gained an ounce since I last wore it in December. It hadn’t fit any better then, but I hadn’t been nearly so uncomfortable.

For most of the evening, I squirmed around trying to get less pinched in my seat. And I kept thinking, “I’d better enjoy wearing this now, because it’s never going to fit me again in my life,” then going into complete emotional shutdown and missing entire scenes. If I was right, then I was only about two weeks along. So I was trying to pretend I didn’t have a zygote burrowing into my uterine lining to make everything fit wrong and
cause my clothes to feel horrible.

We had been married almost exactly three years from the date of one wedding, a little over two years from the date of the other. We had been together around five years all told. I was not ready to become parents.

***

It’s 2011 now. The zygote turned eight years old a couple of months ago. She takes ballet and sings Beatles songs to anyone willing to listen. I’m not nearly so scared of her now. And Scott did not really say “Are we interested in free tickets to My Fair Lady?” He said, “Would either you or I be up for taking Caroline to see My Fair Lady?”

And I said, “Oh, please can I go?”

Neither one of us thought of going together. Not that we wouldn’t like to. But we couldn’t get a sitter on short notice, and right now getting a sitter is probably a very bad idea in general. Sam’s too unstable. And in any case, both our minds flew to the child who wanders the house singing random snippets of Yellow Submarine (the whole album/movie – not just the title song).

So yesterday, Scott lured Sam out of the house at 6:15 at night, with promises of the mall merry-go-round, and Caroline and I threw on some fancy clothes. I don’t actually own much in the way of fancy right now.  Indeed, I’m soon going to have to go buy something so I look nice at an upcoming wedding and baptism. But limited choices made dressing easy. I tossed my only pair of slacks together with a sweater my Dad got me I think before Scott and I got married, then I stuffed Caroline into her favorite hand-me-down dress, and we were off.*

Unlike South Pacific eight years ago, My Fair Lady was spectacular last night. The Davis Theatre For the Performing Arts has a relatively small stage, and the Big League Productions travelling cast only had a twenty person ensemble. But they also had their own live orchestral accompaniment, and they had amazing voices. Only a couple of things jolted me out of the performance. One of those was that Eliza Doolitle’s father looked younger than she was. But he was also being played by the understudy that night. And the man had the part down cold. I enjoyed his performance as much as any once I got over the young face and dark hair. Similarly, Professor Higgins’ head housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, was clearly a young woman made up to look old, and again, it didn’t really matter, because she could carry the part.

At every turn, the small-scale show recreated scenes as I saw them in the movie. Indeed, as the movie was an echo of the original Broadway Musical, I feel certain this smaller production mirrored its original in everything but set design and stage size. (There was only one full set in use, Professor Higgins’ library/study. The rest were either painted curtains or artfully arranged black space with a single prop.)

Several times, I looked over and Caroline was gazing enthralled. She interrupted just twice to make observations only a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome would have made, such as, “Oh, now I see what a cloak is” and “My friend Katie has a white dress for her Cleopatra costume, but even that isn’t as beautiful as she [Eliza] is right now.”

It’s been a long time since I last saw My Fair Lady. In the intervening years, I’ve read Pygmalion and developed an absolute loathing for Henry Higgins. Watching the play last night, I remembered that even though I never liked him much to begin with, I couldn’t help but root for the man when played by Rex Harrison opposite Audrey Hepburn.

And I couldn’t help but root for him again last night. As much as I hate Higgins, I want him to win Eliza’s heart. I want to think that at the end, even though he comes right out and says otherwise, Henry will soften towards Eliza and become a nicer person.

Caroline, who doesn’t have any of my educated baggage, was horrified when Eliza went off with Freddy early in Act II. And when, near the end of the play, Eliza walked away from Higgins saying “You shan’t be seeing me again, Professor”, Caroline leaned into me and said, “That doesn’t really happen, right?”

“Not in this version,” I said. And luckily for her, I forgot to explain Pygmalion on the way home. She can crush her own illusions at some later date.

My favorite song has always been “Just You Wait ‘Enry ‘Iggins”. I like Eliza best when she’s vituperative. Caroline said her favorites were “Get Me To The Church On Time” and “Quit Professor Higgins”. And she elucidated that the latter was the third in the set of extremely short ditties sung by the housekeeping staff. I knew this. But it was such a small part of the play, and I was tickled that she latched onto it and remembered its timing in the performance.

It was a wonderful night, and one I hope to repeat many times in the future as Caroline grows older. Scott and I will get out together sooner or later. Sooner I think, as we have tickets to Spamalot when it comes to Montgomery in January 2012, and no kiddo is going to make either of us sit that one out as a couple. But on the whole, I wouldn’t have traded last night with Caroline for all the Spamalots on Broadway. She had as much fun as I did, and we can’t wait to do it again.

___

Caroline is the youngest of five girl cousins, three on Scott’s side and one on my side, and she is the beneficiary of all of their gently used clothes. It’s all gorgeous, and, especially the stuff that comes from Scott’s sisters, is all in great shape. I’ve only had to buy her a few items of clothing in her entire life so far. I hope she never outgrows loving cousin clothes.
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6 thoughts on “My Fair Lady

  1. It’s a magical show to take your daughter to. I remember living for months with ‘All I want is a room somewhere…’

    This brought back happy memories of taking mine to see it too.

    • …wouldn’t it be loverly? Or rather wasn’t it quite lovely? I kept comparing the play’s Eliza to Audrey Hepburn in my mind. (Of course she fell short. Who besides Audrey could be Audrey?) She really was very good, though. She was just clearly having far too much fun in “Just you wait” and in the shoe-throwing scene.

For the love of Mike, TALK to me! (Concrit welcome on fiction)

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