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ECA Alumna making it big on stage

October 13th, 2017


Lauren Ambrose to Star in ‘My Fair Lady’ on Broadway

Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Paton - Photo Credit BEBETO MATTHEWS / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Paton will play Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins in the Broadway revival of “My Fair Lady.”
BEBETO MATTHEWS / ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Sopan Deb

October 5,2017

More than six years after a Broadway revival of 1964’s “Funny Girl” failed to get off the ground, Lauren Ambrose will get the chance to play the title role in another cherished musical: She will be Eliza Doolittle in the Lincoln Center Theater production of “My Fair Lady” opening this spring.

While names like Colin Firth were bandied about for the role of Henry Higgins, the part is going to an actor largely unknown in the United States: Harry Hadden-Paton, who has extensive theater experience in London, will be making his New York stage debut opposite Ms. Ambrose. On television Mr. Hadden-Paton played Bertie Pelham on PBS’s “Downton Abbey” and Martin Charteris on Netflix’s “The Crown.”

Lincoln Center Theater on Thursday announced key casting for the highly anticipated Broadway production, to be directed by Bartlett Sher, whose sumptuous revivals of “South Pacific” and “The King and I” enjoyed long runs and Tony Award recognition. Usually, the lead roles in “My Fair Lady” are not close to the same age, given its plot. In this case, Ms. Ambrose is 39 and Mr. Hadden-Paton is 36.

Also in the “My Fair Lady” cast: the two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz, as Eliza’s jaunty father, Alfred P. Doolittle, and the Tony winner (and “Game of Thrones” alumnus) Diana Rigg as Henry Higgins’s mother.

Best known for her role in HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” Ms. Ambrose was Mr. Sher’s surprising choice to play Fanny Brice in a production of “Funny Girl” that would have marked the show’s return to Broadway for the first time since it made Barbra Streisand into a superstar.

Instead, she will play Eliza, the Cockney flower seller schooled in elegance by the starchy professor Henry Higgins. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” the show features a score, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, dotted with such classics as “On the Street Where You Live” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.”

“‘Funny Girl’ was just an unfortunate series of circumstances,” Mr. Sher said in a phone call from London, where he was overseeing the transfer of the play “Oslo” to the West End. “Lauren is an extraordinarily talented actor, who has such an amazing combination of skills. So in a weird way, it’s kind of even better to be doing Shaw, Lerner and Loewe.”

“My Fair Lady” had its premiere on Broadway in 1956, and has been revived there three times since, most recently in 1993. Four years ago, the music mogul Clive Davis announced that he was in discussions to bring the musical back, though that never materialized.

Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison famously introduced the lead roles on stage; Audrey Hepburn (her singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon) played Eliza opposite Harrison in the 1964 movie, which won eight Oscars, including best picture.

“People’s associations with it are very dominated by the film,” Mr. Sher said. “So it’s an interesting work to return to see in a new light.”

His “My Fair Lady” begins previews March 15 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and will officially open on April 19.

Calling the show “truly one of the great musicals ever written,” he added: “We’re going to crack it.”

View New York Times article

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