My Fair Lady: Are Musicals Included in the Battle of the Sexes?

     Many people think that the idea of people bursting into song for no apparent reason is pretty silly. I must admit that the first time I stage-managed a musical at my local community theatre, I was less than thrilled. I had been stage managing and working in theatre for a few years when I was asked to manage a cast of over thirty. Not only was the cast bigger, but the responsibility was bigger there was more to organize, because of the addition of several songs and scenes, not to mention actors. To me, the whole concept of a musical was silly. However, I began to think about the amount of money that producing a Broadway musical must make. Between royalties and the strong desire by theatre-going audiences for this kind of thing, I believed that writing musicals would make my fortune.

     I began to envision a musical that could make me rich a musical about a prison breakout (yes, Escape From Alcatraz is one of my favorite movies). I could star Clint Eastwood, and make a fortune! Hey, it took no real skill to whip up a few songs and just plug them into the plot of a play, right?--no problem! Soon after finishing the musical I was stage managing however, I began to realize something--I actually liked the songs! Moreover, I missed them! I would fall asleep every night for the next two weeks after the final production singing various tunes from The Music Man. That was it; I was hooked.

     When I discovered that I would have the opportunity to watch My Fair Lady on the big screen in my ENG 213 Film and Literature class, I was thrilled. This being my best friend's favorite musical of all-time, I had seen it several times before but had never tired of watching the incredibly talented actors, beautiful costumes and well-designed sets. Most of all, I never tired of the songs within this musical. There is something about My Fair Lady, directed in 1964 by George Cukor and based on the 1913 play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, that is quite different from other musicals of this time; perhaps it was because it was not a Rogers and Hammerstein work, as several others were. I was disappointed then, to hear that several of the men in the class hated it. I guess I can understand their feelings since at one time I felt the same way. But then I began to wonder--what makes someone begin to enjoy musicals? There must be something about them, or they would not have gained such popularity over the past decades.

     Considering the amount of money that Broadway brings in from one show alone, there is quite a calling for musicals, and also for opera. The idea of men serenading the women they love strikes a chord in many women in America. To men however, the concept is just silly. I am sure that there are several women in America that feel the way I once did; however it appears from the democratic process within my class, that men tend to be the majority of musical-haters in this country. So, is this one of the major conflicts between the sexes? There are several examples of musicals that I believe men could appreciate if they would give the women in their lives the opportunity to show them. What about West Side Story?--here is a musical about two gangs that have been at war with each other for years! Surely this is a musical that men could understand, and begin to have an appreciation for as the actors sing about "when you re a jet " After all, it involves some of the fundamentals that make for great film (according to men) action, violence, leather jackets, and most importantly, looking good!

     So all in all, maybe it is just the plot that makes a difference as to whether or not males will enjoy a musical. Maybe I had the right idea about creating a musical of a prison breakout. A musical attuned to males may just be the answer to the never-ending debate about whether or not a musical is actually "good." I wonder if Clint is available?

Erica Hulse

Table of Contents