FRANKLIN, Tenn. – It’s known as the “Pygmalion Effect” – The higher the expectations imposed, the greater the results achieved. Studio Tenn Theatre Company concludes its highly acclaimed third season by rising to the occasion in presenting what some have called “The Perfect Musical”: Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady.
To cast their production of arguably the grandest musical of all time, Studio Tenn’s Artistic Director Matt Logan and Managing Director Jake Speck – both Broadway vets – looked no further than Nashville. “There is such a tremendous pool of talent right here in Music City,” Speck says, “and Studio Tenn embraces the opportunity to showcase that.”
Laura Matula returns to Studio Tenn as the stubborn and feisty Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle following her terrific performances in Smokey Joe’s Café and Guys and Dolls. “Laura is the perfect Eliza,” Speck states. “Not only does she have the singing and acting chops for this challenging and dynamic role, but she has Eliza’s spitfire exuberance, energy, and charisma. She’s sure to wow in this role.”
Logan will make his Studio Tenn acting debut as the haughty Henry Higgins, the phonetics professor who undertakes to rectify Eliza’s speech and pass her off as an upper-class lady. “Matt’s fingerprints are of course all over every production we do; as the Artistic Director, he is the visionary behind our sets, costumes, and staging,” Speck notes. “He is also a very talented actor, which is a side of him lesser seen. I think Studio Tenn regulars will especially enjoy this rare opportunity to see Matt in his element on stage.”
Other players in the all-Nashville cast include Matthew Carlton (Doyle and Debbie, Studio Tenn’s Guys and Dolls and A Christmas Carol) as Eliza’s jolly drunkard father Alfie Doolittle, Jeremy Childs (Studio Tenn’s Guys and Dolls and Twelve Angry Men) as Colonel Pickering and Ross Bridgeman as Freddy.
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady debuted in 1956 with a record-setting Broadway run starring Rex Harrison and the newly discovered Julie Andrews. It has since seen numerous successful revivals and an award-winning 1964 film adaptation starring Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.
However, much like Eliza Doolittle’s transformation from rags to perceived riches, My Fair Lady’s road to success was not without its impediments.
Filmmaker Gabriel Pascal first obtained the rights to make a musical of Pygmalion in the 1930s. But author George Bernard Shaw forbade it, postponing Pascal’s efforts until his death in 1950. After Shaw’s passing, Pascal resurrected the project, enlisting lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and his composer partner Frederick Loewe.
But it seemed Shaw’s play refused to conform to the archetypal musical mold. Most troublesome, the main plot was not a love story.
Even Rodgers and Hammerstein had abandoned efforts to adapt Pygmalion. Lerner and Loewe took a two-year hiatus from the project before reuniting to create what came to be widely regarded as a masterpiece.
Like its heroine, My Fair Lady was a quite a piece of work at first. “It certainly had a rough start,” Logan says, “but all those things that initially made it an unlikely musical instead ended up making it a brilliant and beautiful one.
“The relationship between Eliza and Higgins is so memorable precisely because it’s not your run-of-the-mill love story.”
Nearly six decades after its Tony Award-winning debut the witty and charming My Fair Lady still translates with little-to-no tampering. While Studio Tenn lends fresh interpretative elements to all its productions, audiences can expect a relatively straightforward My Fair Lady. After all, “you don’t mess with perfection,” Logan explains. “As generations of successful revivals have attested, this show leaves little to be desired, and much to be upheld and celebrated. The brilliance is already there—all that’s left to do is articulate it the best we can.”
About Studio Tenn
Studio Tenn Theatre Company is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, independent from its host venues. While its productions have enjoyed great popularity, including numerous sellouts, they would not be possible without the generous support of sponsors and donors. For more information about Studio Tenn Theatre Company or to get involved as a donor or sponsor, please visit StudioTenn.com or email email@example.com.
*Artwork and photos by ANTHONYMATULA courtesy Studio Tenn.