Musical Dreams

         When I was five years old, I saw The Sound of Music for the first time, and since that day, I have always wanted to star in a musical, despite my stage fright and average singing voice. When I saw My Fair Lady, I thought that, next to The Sound of Music, it would be the best musical to star in because of the vast amount of complexity in acting, character, and music. I have always been partial to Julie Andrews, and I think I would like to model my stage performance after hers. While Audrey Hepburn did a fine job, she is no Julie Andrews; Maria had my heart first. I would adore the chance to stand on set and sing the songs from My Fair Lady while giving Eliza my own personal touch, surrounded by great talents in an updated version of the classic musical.

         The most important aspect of a musical is still the acting. As Hepburn demonstrates in the George Cukor's 1964 film My Fair Lady, singing is not a necessity when starring in a musical; one's voice can be voiced over by someone who can sing if one cannot. Acting is harder to fix digitally or technologically. I want to emphasize the transformation Eliza's dialect undergoes throughout the film. Showing the progression from point A to point B is equally important. The "Rain in Spain" scene is pivotal in the play and in the film; it is here that Eliza first experiences true accomplishment and, at least in the film, a true, deep connection to Professor Higgins. In order for the audience to understand the importance of this revelation, the actor and I would have to work in order to perfect the moment on screen. As Eliza, I would have to say I wanted Freddy to play a bigger role, especially in the end, because it is Professor Higgins' jealousy and need at that time that allows him to finally recognize his affection for Eliza. To showcase this effectively, Professor Higgins would have to increase his rage, perhaps to the point of a face-to-face verbal confrontation with his opposition. While an indirect relationship between Freddy (Jeremy Brett) and Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) may have worked in the 1964 movie My Fair Lady, people need more action in today's society. Therefore, Eliza's transformation and Professor Higgins' realization would be more dramatized in a contemporary My Fair Lady.

         While Hepburn did some of her own singing, some of it was a voice-over. That would never do for me. I grew up singing show tunes and various other songs, and I have always hated that Hollywood tends to pick beauty over true talent. While Julie Andrews' career exploded after Mary Poppins, a role she took after she was not cast as Eliza in My Fair Lady, I still wish I could have seen her in the musical because I think she would have brought much more to the role than Hepburn did, especially with respect to the singing. The singing aspect of the role of Eliza in My Fair Lady would be my favorite. Given the chance, I would love to showcase Eliza's struggle through song. From "Wouldn't It Be Lovely" to "I Could Have Danced All Night," Eliza changes from a poor, uneducated girl to a sophisticated, learned woman. It is a progression that the play Pygmalion and its 1938 film adaptation, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, lack. While the film and play can rely on only words, the musical has lyrics and music to enhance the story. Of course, one can hear the difference between "I'm a good girl, I am" and "How kind of you to let me come," the difference between "Just you wait, 'enry 'iggins" and "I Could Have Danced All Night" is more pronounced. This is the part when all the times I have played the My Fair Lady soundtrack in my car while singing along would be most useful because, unlike many musicals, Eliza's character must include the phonetic changes in the songs that audiences have associated with My Fair Lady for many years. It is a complicated role that would be so much fun to learn, play, and sing for audiences of all ages.

         While many people in class have said they wish Eliza were more mature in the musical, screaming, "Aooowww," less when someone offends or scares her, I think this behavior is essential to the overall character. Notice, at the beginning of the musical (and film and play as well in this regard) she is immature, whiny, and frail. However, during her transformation, her attitudes and other, less accentuated behavior change as well. She becomes mature, refined, and classy to the point of being composed enough to handle Professor Higgins' lack of physical affection and his poor attitude. Therefore, I think the immaturity showcased in the beginning of the musical is another essential factor needed to aid the complete transformation Eliza experiences by the end of the film.

         Other than the aforementioned aspects of My Fair Lady, I would not alter anything significantly, other than an update of the other actors and actresses, of course. As Eliza, I would love to sing about life, change, and love to an audience that could experience the classic story line in a new, slightly altered way. It is necessary to include good acting and singing on my part as Eliza, but it is also important to keep other things which make My Fair Lady the work it always has been. It is a story for lovers; it is a story for learners; and a story for songbirds. It is a story for anyone who dares to dream about what one could be if one were given the change to sing. . . .

Vanessa Childers

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