My Fair Lady began rehearsals this week. At the meet-and-greet session, with the battalion of actors seated around a quadrangle of tables and Lincoln Center Theater staff arrayed behind them, I thought of something that the baseball sage Yogi Berra told me 10 years ago at the opening-night party of LCT’s production of South Pacific, which, like My Fair Lady, was directed by Bartlett Sher. I had asked Berra, a decorated veteran, what he had thought of the show. “I was at D-Day,” he replied. “This is bigger.”
Addressing the My Fair Lady troops, Sher put it another way. “There are many layers of people here,” he said. I couldn’t help but think of the manifold individual journeys undertaken to reach this rehearsal room. Not just the air travel – Harry Hadden-Paton, our Henry Higgins, Diana Rigg, our Mrs. Higgins, and Allan Corduner, our Colonel Pickering, had come from London, and several of the ensemble from much warmer Los Angeles – but the preparation. The childhoods of being stage-struck, the school days of acting in Shakespeare and Lorraine Hansberry and Thornton Wilder, the young adulthoods in drama school or MFA programs, the living in apartments with three roommates while starting out, the first disappointments, the first break – not to mention the cost of singing lessons and head shots.
And now everyone was here, in LCT’s large rehearsal room, going through the initial read-through, and discovering all these honed talents applying themselves to the book and lyrics and Alan Jay Lerner and the music of Frederick Loewe. It was a show-in-formation, and will be a show-in-formation for quite some time. But there is something about a first time that, whether delightful or disappointing, is indelible.
The first day of My Fair Lady was indelible.
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com.