A story that has stood the test of time for as long as just about any current theater production, My Fair Lady‘s national tour will stop at the gorgeous EJ Thomas Hall in Akron, OH for two nights only; March 14 – 15 {Complete show and ticket information on CleveRock’s event calendar: RIGHT HERE!}

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion, with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, made its stage debut in 1956. My Fair Lady went on to win six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It set a record for the longest run of any musical on Broadway up to that time. Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews starred in the production and many revivals have since followed. The 1964 film version won the Academy Award for Best Picture!

In a recent interview with CleveRock, actor Jonathan Grunert, who plays Professor Henry Higgins in the current national tour, talked about the story and what makes it an all-time classic:

“The story follows Eliza, a Cockney flower girl who decides to change her status by changing her speech and by taking these lessons with Professor Henry Higgins. And, getting to see someone sort of shift their perspective on the world, and on the way they deserve to be treated, and what they can expect from the world itself, and from the people around them… It’s really exciting,” he said. “She says at one point that it’s so much more than fancy dresses. And, you know, I think she’s right! We are excited to see somebody grow and change in that way. It’s because she’s so intelligent right from the start. She’s so canny that she’s able to call Henry Higgins out on his behavior right away. She’s the first one to say, ‘What you’re doing is you’re being a bully and you have no feelings for the people around you.’ She says that and sees him right away, and in a way that other characters can’t. That’s exciting to see him get called out right from the beginning and how she forced him to change; to see both of them challenge each other and grow together. That’s always an exciting thing to see.”

As for what makes the show still captivate audiences 67 years later and still draw sell-out crowds, Grunert describes, “It’s a classic Cinderella story. I think audiences love seeing the transformation. I think they love seeing somebody learn about themselves and about the world and, that’s kind of what you get with the lines of the story.”

Jonathan Grunert

In this interviewer’s humble opinion, in order for a show to have the longevity that My Fair Lady has endured, one of the most important elements is an unforgettable musical score. Songs from My Fair Lady including “On the Street Where You Live” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” have become stand-alone hits recorded by some of the most prominent recording artists of all time.

“We’re lucky because so many of these songs have stood the test of time. Most people, the first time they encounter them isn’t even through My Fair Lady,” Gruner agrees. “I mean, the first time I heard ‘On the Street Where You Live’ must have been Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra or some other classic singer. And then, I see the movie on TCM some Sunday morning and I already know half of this music just from the radio; just from the records my parents would play. I already know and love these songs, and now, to hear them in context really changes your perspective on them, to sort of get swept up in the story and in the emotion of it is really different to sort of have your own perspective on these songs that you think you know so well, that having them brought to life with lights and costumes and with people who are feeling these things at the moment is so breathtaking.”

Grunert is playing a role that literally has been portrayed by hundreds of actors before him. In classic shows such as this one, some actors try to put their own twist on their character, while others try to stay tried and true; doing justice and paying homage to those that originated the role or filled their shoes later. As for Grunert:

“I do my best to live up to the script and to the score that is already there, you know? I don’t really have to bring anything new to it,” he said. “I think the changes that sort of come on the character that we see in him, are more the changes in the audience. We have a different perspective on him now than maybe we would have had when Rex Harrison was playing him or when Leslie Howard was playing him.”

Speaking of tried and true…

“We have all of the original Tony Award-winning costumes and they are absolutely gorgeous,” Grunert said. “The moment that Eliza walks on the stage when she has her transformation; she’s in her ball gown for the first time and you can hear a pin drop; the air goes out of the room because it’s such a beautiful moment with the lighting and the costumes.”

Grunert is currently on his first national tour. He tells us he is adjusting to road life well and loves to explore new cities. Questioned if he had a new favorite place that has stolen his heart, he quipped that he hasn’t been to Akron yet. As lovely as Akron is (especially in early March), it will be hard for the cast’s experience of being in Kansas City the week of the Super Bowl on the night that the Chiefs were crowned champions.

“We were lucky enough to have audiences on the day of the Super Bowl. The energy in the city that week was just electric,” he recalls. “There was red and gold everywhere you could imagine getting ready for the game. And then, of course, the night of, everyone was very, very excited. The moment that the lights went up afterward, everyone checked their phones and you knew immediately what had happened. We were backstage and the curtain came down and I think the cheers get even louder. We realized that Kansas City had won.”

Yes, it will be impossible to top that, but Northeast Ohio theater fans are second to none. The cast may not have a moral victory over the Super Bowl while in town, but undoubtedly, the Buckeye State will welcome the production with wonderful hospitality.

Related posts


Joel Voorman

Pat Monahan (Train) Interview

Joel Voorman

Interview: Dave Coulier. Cut. It. Out.

Joel Voorman