Musical Quality Adds and Takes Away

         In George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion, a somewhat serious tone is introduced to the reader because this play lacks musical quality that all too often tends to drag out and trivialize Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 My Fair Lady, which was filmed in 1964 by George Cukor.

         Eliza begins studying how to speak under Higgins. Her bet involves her going to a party at Buckingham Palace and not being found out as an imposter in front of the queen of Transylvania. It is a long, enduring struggle to learn all the vowel sounds, especially when her pronunciation was so pitiful to start with. All parties involved with this continually get aggravated, upset, and annoyed. Even more annoyance is shown when Eliza's father keeps dropping by for money because Higgins has his daughter; this makes the reader disgusted with him. These underlying stressful emotions build up until the climax at the ball. When the former student of Higgins, the Hungarian linguist and interpreter, starts to get interested in Eliza and keeps trying to see her and make conversation, everyone begins to tense up with nervousness. The tenseness eases up a lot when the interpreter names her a Hungarian princess as the prince dances with her. All relief is felt, the goal has been made, and victory has been accomplished after their long struggle to get this far.

         In the play, emotional situations are easily taken to heart; and sympathy is greatly felt for each character at some point in the story; however, in George Cukor's 1964 film My Fair Lady, the serious tone of the story is diminished by a musical quality that adds unnecessary length and excessive cuteness. Throughout the play, at moment of previous stress, the actors would begin singing little rhymes about the situations they were in. At times in the film, the rhyming songs are so long and repetitive that it almost loses the viewers' attention. For example, when Higgins is singing about their victory; his song lasts forever; and he repeats "victory" over and over. It is the same when Mr. Doolittle sings about drinking. These different instances hurt the theme of the book. The rhyming cuteness of the songs does not allow the reader to feel any hatred towards Mr. Doolittle and Higgins for their mistreatment of Eliza.

         Even worse, towards the end when their victory is accomplished, no one congratulates Eliza; and it hurts her very much, as shown from her actions. In the original play, much feeling and sorrow are felt for her, and the readers feel as if they relate to every one of the characters, appreciating their actions due to sorrow and mistreatment. The emotional intensity of the first version is depreciated in the second version with the melodious tone of each situation. For example, when Higgins and Pickering are singing "You Did It" to applaud each other on the miraculous victory; they fail to acknowledge Eliza and her triumph. In the first version, the reader feels anger towards them for disregarding Eliza and hurting her feelings. However, in the musical play, most of the emotion is lost in the midst of the silly songs that divert the reader's feelings of remorse for different characters.

         The original version of My Fair Lady is very serious and pulls the reader into each of the characters' shoes. The readers feel as if they become each character, identifying with the random situations. Feelings of remorse are experienced, as well as hatred for different characters that abuse others. However, in the musical, this emotional connection is depleted. It becomes hard for the reader to identify with the characters and understand why they act as they did. The musical becomes cute and makes the plot almost unimportant. However, the musical does have a nice artistic quality that tries, not always successfully, to capture the readers' attention through musical entertainment.

Rebecca Hardin

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