‘My Fair Lady’ opens series
Here’s to you, Henry Higgins, says British actor
By Jackie Demaline, Cincinnati Enquirer
Could Eliza Doolittle be a role model for today’s girlie celebs?
As a flower seller at Covent Garden, Eliza had a solid work ethic; elocution and deportment lessons certainly seemed to have more long-term impact than a few weeks in luxury rehab.
Christopher Cazenove chuckles mightily when he considers it.
Cazenove, veteran British stage and film actor and probably best known in the U.S. for a turn in the TV soap “Dynasty,” is now on his first American stage tour, starring as Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.” This recent West End revival opens the BroadwayAcrossAmerica-Cincinnati season Tuesday at the Aronoff Center.
The 50-years-young “My Fair Lady” is a Cinderella story about a ragamuffin who finds a phonetics professor instead of a fairy godmother and uses her own determination and the gift of elegant speech instead of a magic wand to find a new life.
Cazenove says he’s delighted to be setting off on a tour that will take him to 26 American cities over 40 weeks, since he’s never seen much of the States beyond the coasts.
Cazenove claims he’s “lusted after Higgins” for a goodly while. “I can’t think of a better role for an actor my age, including Shakespeare.”
One never asks an actor his age, but Cazenove is old enough to have seen the original London production of “My Fair Lady” - but he was a lad, and it had already been playing long enough that the show’s legendary star Rex Harrison had moved on.
And, ahem, better than Shakespeare?
“It has terrific songs, great dialogue, everything that pleases actors,” Cazenove rhapsodizes, and then there’s the fun of playing an iconic character with whom the actor says he has absolutely nothing in common.
“Higgins is an arrogant bully,” Cazenove says, sounding a bit affronted at the very idea that he and Higgins share anything beyond testosterone. “He’s outrageous in his treatment of people.” The fun of it, says Cazenove, is getting it right “so that the audience likes him in spite of themselves.”
“It’s quite a mountain to climb at every performance.”
So what about Higgins and Eliza? What does Cazenove think happens after the final curtain drops? George Bernard Shaw left no doubt that there was no romantic future for the professor and his protégé. Lerner and Loewe finished the musical with a question mark.
“They’re a match for each other, but it wouldn’t be a love affair,” says Cazenove. “The way we end it, the battle is far from over.”