A Labor of Loverly

The Guthrie promises to treat My Fair Lady right.

Joe Dowling
Photo by Ann Marsden
“It’s a perfect musical, with great songs and a great book—perfect summer fun.” Joe Dowling, Guthrie Artistic Director

My Fair Lady has become a beloved musical, and for good reason. “It’s a perfect musical, with great songs and a great book—perfect summer fun,” says Guthrie artistic director Joe Dowling. But that’s not the only reason he’s staging it; his affinity for the story of Professor Henry Higgins’s transformation of Eliza Doolittle from bedraggled Cockney flower seller to elegant lady goes deeper than that. “There’s the Shaw connection.”

Lerner and Lowe’s musical, of course, is based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion, which at the time was a sharp commentary that “started a debate in London about class.” The idea that a commoner could be trained to pass for a duchess was scandalous.

Dowling has been a fan of Shaw, “a fellow Dubliner,” for as long as he can remember. “I admire how resolute he was in presenting his ideas,” he says. But as the musical has become more beloved, the play has become more obscure. Dowling points out that there is little original dialogue in the musical. “That’s what makes it so good—the sheer bravura of the piece,” he says. “It’s a perfect musical, and we’re not going to screw that up. We’re going to do that as it’s written.”

With collaborators such as choreographer Joe Chvala and what Dowling describes as “an ensemble that includes everyone who is anyone in Twin Cities musical theater,” this promises to be a real summer treat. June 28–Aug. 31.

Guthrie Theater, 612-377-2224, guthrie