Jul 2, 2016

My Fair Lady


“I have often walked down this street before. . .” Are you able to finish this sentence? And more importantly, does the melody that goes with those words sound simultaneously in your head?

This could be, I realize, a generational-divide question. After all, the musical My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, written by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Lowe, made its debut on Broadway in 1956. So – unless you are a Millennial obsessed with The Great White Way and its bounty, you may not know that the next words are: “. . .but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.”

Here’s Australian tenor Leonard Weir performing the song on the 1959 Columbia Records Original Broadway Cast Album.

So what’s my point here? One might think from reading my past blogs and other Discovery Orchestra propaganda, that George Marriner Maull would never listen to songs from Broadway Shows. How could these tunes possibly stack up against string quartets and symphonies?

Truth is, I ‘wore out’ my family’s vinyl copy of the album above – along with a host of similar LP’s featuring the music of American musical theater composers such as Rodgers, Kern, Gershwin and Bernstein – and getting plenty of goose bumps along the way! And there have been so many composer/lyricist teams that have delighted me since the time I first discovered them. . .around age 9 or so.

It would not be until I moved to Louisville that I would finally, in the early 1970’s, have the opportunity to conduct performances of Broadway shows like Fiddler on the Roof and The King and I, as music director for the Heritage Theater of Louisville. And, believe it or not, it wasn’t until my move to New York in 1975 at age 28, that I would get to actually play in Broadway pits as a ‘sub’ and attend shows in Broadway theaters.

One of the greatest joys of my playing career as a violist was ‘subbing’ for two weeks in the pit for the 1976 Broadway revival of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess by the Houston Grand Opera. What a thrill – followed soon thereafter by the chance to ‘sub’ in the pit of Marvin Hamlisch’s A Chorus Line! This was sheer joy. The first Broadway show I attended was a performance in the 46th Street Theatre in early 1976 of John Kander’s Chicago, in which my neighbor on 74th Street and good friend, Marsha Bagwell was a cast member.

There is also frequently the opportunity on and offBroadway especially to sample and discover new shows! One of our Discovery Orchestra trustees is co-producing a new off-Broadway musical, Himself and Nora, at the Minetta Lane Theatre in lower Manhattan, and is offering discount tickets at $59 for performances now through September 4th. You can see a clip of the show here. If you’re interested in attending, use discount code Nora to purchase your tickets. Visit either ticketmaster or the show’s website.