Ticket Prices Vary
Wednesdays & Thursdays: $35 Reserved; $43 Front-of-House; $55 Cabaret
Weekends: $39 Reserved; $49 Front-of-House; $65 Cabaret
Youth Tickets: (17 & under) $25 & $29
The musical's 1956 Broadway production was a hit, setting what was then the record for the longest run of any major musical theatre production in history. It was followed by a hit London production, a popular film version, and numerous revivals. It has been called "the perfect musical".*
The musical had its pre-Broadway tryout at New Haven's Shubert Theatre. On opening night Rex Harrison, who was unaccustomed to singing in front of a live orchestra, "announced that under no circumstances would he go on that night...with those thirty-two interlopers in the pit". He locked himself in his dressing room and came out little more than an hour before curtain time. The whole company had been dismissed but were recalled, and opening night was a success. The musical then played for four weeks at the Erlanger Theatre in Philadelphia, beginning on February 15, 1956.
The musical premiered on Broadway March 15, 1956, at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City. It transferred to the Broadhurst Theatre and then The Broadway Theatre, where it closed on September 29, 1962 after 2,717 performances, a record at the time. Moss Hart directed and Hanya Holm was choreographer. In addition to stars Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stanley Holloway, the original cast included Robert Coote, Cathleen Nesbitt, John Michael King, and Reid Shelton. Edward Mulhare and Sally Ann Howes replaced Harrison and Andrews later in the run. The Original Cast Recording went on to become the best-selling album in the country in 1956. The original costumes were designed by Cecil Beaton and are on display at the Costume World Broadway Collection in Pompano Beach, Florida, along with many of the original patterns.
An Oscar-winning film version was made in 1964, directed by George Cukor and with Harrison again in the part of Higgins. The casting of Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews as Eliza was controversial, partly because theatregoers regarded Andrews as perfect for the part and partly because Hepburn's singing voice had to be dubbed (by Marni Nixon). Jack Warner, the head of Warner Brothers, which produced the film, wanted "a star with a great deal of name recognition", but since Julie Andrews did not have any film experience, he thought a movie with her would not be as successful. (Andrews went on to star in Mary Poppins that same year and won the Oscar over Audrey Hepburn; Mary Poppins became Disney's most successful live-action film of all time.) Lerner in particular disliked the film version of the musical, thinking it did not live up to the standards of Moss Hart's original direction. He was also unhappy that the film was shot in its entirety on the Warner Brothers backlot rather than, as he would have preferred, in London. Rex Harrison went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor, while George Cukor took home the Best Director prize.
Written by Alan Jay Lerner and based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. The music was written by Frederick Loewe. The team of Lerner and Loewe was also responsible for several other hit Broadway shows including Brigadoon and Camelot.
* See, e.g., Steyn, Mark. Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then and Now, Routledge (1999), p. 119 ISBN 0-415-92286-0