Monday, July 16, 2012

My Fair Lady: The Sir Percy Version

Melody: Don't you wish we were all together in real life?
Amy: Of course, we are.
Alexandra: Sure we all are.
~Live chat during the MFL broadcast

I'll admit it.  I'll admit it freely.  I decided to listen to the BBC's live broadcast of My Fair Lady for the sole, simple reason that Anthony Andrews--otherwise known as Sir Percy Blakeney--was playing Professor Henry Higgins.

Of course, the excitement mounted when I found out that Alun Armstrong (Flintwinch in Little Dorrit, Thenardier in Les Miserables) and Jenny Galloway (Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables) would be playing Alfred P. Doolittle and Mrs. Pierce, respectively.  Les Miz meets The Scarlet Pimpernel?  Yes, please!

So at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, I sat down to tune into BBC Radio 3 with my sister Anne-girl and my friends Alexandra and Melody.  (Let's all remove our hats and have a moment of silence in regret that the show was not televised.)  Is it an understatement to say we had an absolute blast?  We kept a lickety-split commentary running over Gmail chat, which resulted in much talking over each other and complaining of "Hey, I was going to say that!"  Variations on the phrase "This. Is. Amazing." were also repeated ad infinitum.

I should start with Eliza, but I can't leave you all in suspense, so we'll start with Henry Higgins instead.  Since Anthony Andrews was the reason I listened to it in the first place, I was naturally REALLY hoping he would be amazing in the role.  The best Henry Higgins ever. Well, um, obviously.  Rex who?  Rex Harrison?  Never heard of him.

My friends may do something drastic to me for sharing this bit of immaturity on the Internet, but this was our reaction to the first scene (spelling edited for clarity; we were typing very fast):

 Melody: Sounds way more like Uncle Frederick than John Dashwood.  [speaking of Colonel Pickering, who was played by James Fleet]
 Anne: AA!
 Alexandra: HE'S COMING!!!!!
 Melody: SHHH.
 Amy: coming...
 Amy: THERE HE IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 Melody: Hahahaha.
 Alexandra: SCREAM!!!!!!
                   Melody: Oh my goodness. You girls.

Melody may now take credit for being the only sane one among us.

It was quite interesting to discover that Henry Higgins' songs actually had tunes and could be sung with the music.  Revolutionary.  Anthony Andrews has a very, very good voice by the way.  He should be in Les Miz. *cowers under Melody's glare*

When Rex Harrison played HH, he made the character incredibly annoying.  And though HH is supposed to be annoying, Anthony Andrews made him likable as well.  With Harrison's portrayal, you got the feeling that he really could get along without Eliza-- it was only his selfishness that wanted her back.  But with Anthony Andrews' portrayal, it seemed that HH was blustering and shouting that he didn't need Eliza, and yet underneath he really did need her very badly indeed, even if he wouldn't admit it.

And yes, I may be biased in that opinion.

Naturally, since The Scarlet Pimpernel himself was starring in this play, manifold TSP jokes flew back and forth.  "Let the others of my sex tie the knot around their necks... I told you he'd stick a cravat in there somewhere!"  And when Eliza shouts, "Ready, aim, fire!" during "Just You Wait", certain members of the party may have mentally shrieked "PERCYYYYYYYY!" in a Marguerite voice. Can't imagine who those people might have been.

Annalene Beechey, who played Eliza, was... well, not great.  It was a truth universally acknowledged that her high notes were a bit shrill and got lost in the orchestra.  Plus, her Cockney accent was a bit unconvincing.  At times she almost sounded American.  Her show-stopper song, "I Could Have Danced All Night" wasn't what we'd hoped for.  Sad, that.

Alexandra: Will she pull this song off?
 Amy: YES.
 Melody: YAY.
 Amy: Hmmmm.... sounding good...
 Anne: Meh. Ok.
 Alexandra: She's ok.
 Melody: It's ... slow.
 Amy: Very light and bright and airy... a little too thin...
 Alexandra: Yeah.  Yeah, too thin on top.
 Anne: Yeah I like fast songs. Like the way guess who? AA sings
 Amy: Like I said, her high notes are getting lost.
 Alexandra: Yep.
 Amy: Let's see how the end is...
 Alexandra: YES.
 Melody: Her voice kinda annoys me.Amy: Come on, hit the note! HIT IT!
 Anne: Loving this!
 Alexandra: So far, so good.  That last "I only know" was too fast for my taste.  Here we go....
 Amy: Uh-uh.
 Alexandra: Nope.
 Amy: Not strong enough.
 Anne: Oh, she almost made it!
 Amy: The music drowned her out.
 Alexandra: Almost. So close.
 Melody: It was tolerable.
 Alexandra: Yes, I agree.
 Amy: *claps politely* But not handsome enough to tempt me.
 Melody: I was waiting for that. :D
Plus, she just didn't show enough emotion.  Eliza's famous "aoooowww" was good, but she didn't wail and shriek the way Audrey Hepburn did in the movie, nor did she put enough oomph into "Show Me" or "Just You Wait," Eliza's classic Angry Songs.  And, sadly enough, her iconic line "I'm a good girl, I am" was so un-memorable that I don't even remember it.

Alun Armstrong as Alfred P. Doolittle, however, was all that could be hoped for.  He blew Stanley Holloway out of the park.  Even his singing was better--and before Les Miz, I had no idea that Alun Armstrong even could sing, having only seen him in non-musical movies.  (Is anyone else amused that two of the leads in this musical were played by AA's? Or is it just me?)

Freddy Eynsford-Hill... was annoying.  But he's supposed to be.  At least, IMHO.  So that's a good thing?  I think?  His "On the Street Where You Live" left much to be desired.

Alexandra: His voice is annoying.  That's my final verdict.
 Anne: Yeah, he sounds like a sheep
 Amy: 'Tis indeed. At least it's not [Nick Jonas].
 Alexandra: Baaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.  Very true.

James Fleet as Colonel Pickering was an unfortunate choice, I think.  He sounded tired and depressed most of the time-- more like timid Uncle Frederick in Little Dorrit (another part he's played) than the blustery Colonel Pickering.  His "You Did It" was adequate, but the rest of his performance was most unsatisfactory.

Jenny Galloway, known to all you Miserables as Madame Thenardier, was an okay Mrs. Pierce-- there was nothing technically wrong with her performance, but like the Colonel, she sounded tired for most of the time.  Mrs. Pierce doesn't have much personality to begin with... but eh, I preferred Mona Washburn in the movie.

Zoltan Karpathy... was very strange indeed.  His fake accent was so ridiculous as to be hardly intelligible, (although when Henry Higgins imitated him after the ball during "You Did It", we were all falling off our chairs).  He pronounced Europe as Yow Rupp (not kidding) and basically oozed slime and creepiness.

Alexandra: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!  I'm dyyyyyying.  That shriek AA gave.
 Amy: YOW Rupp?
 Anne: Old Coins!
 Melody: It's Mr. Collins.
 Alexandra: Heheheeeee.
 Amy: [speaking to Zoltan K] You should shave, you look a disgusting object.
Anne: He's a creep!
 Melody: GLOWrious?
 Alexandra: He's really creepy.
 Alexandra: Not as funny as the movie IMO.
 Amy: You do not know everyone in Yow Rupp. Sir Percy does.

The Lessons Sequence and The Rain in Spain have always been two of my favorite parts, and their presentation in this production did not disappoint.  I only wish we could have seen the part when Eliza is learning her H's.   According to the commentator who mouthed off for twenty minutes during the intermission, there was a really cool flame-throwing machine doing the candle effects for that sequence.  Oh, BBC, why did you not televise?  Why?  But, as I said, The Rain in Spain was all we could have hoped for.  And you can listen to it here!

Amy: [speaking of Professor Higgins at the beginning of The Rain in Spain] He CLAPPED!
 Anne: Relief!
 Alexandra: BY GEORGE!!!!
 Melody: Yes, Amy. People clap.
 Anne: A TUNE!
 Alexandra: Ok, her singing's ok.
 Alexandra: Forget forever.
 Melody: Who's Rex Harrison?  [this was said in sarcasm, folks--she knows who RH is]
 Alexandra: He never existed.

And the Ascot Races!  The best part, by far, was when the actress playing Mrs. Higgins completely goofed. (I love it when people mess up onstage.  I know, that's mean, but it's so funny.)  She was supposed to say, "Where IS my son?" or something of the sort, but... well... she didn't say "son."  Here's our reaction:

Alexandra:  OOOOPS.
 Amy: YOUR HUSBAND???????
 Melody: HUSBAND???
 Anne: Husband!
 Alexandra: She messed up!!!!!!!! WOWOWOWOWOW.
 Alexandra: WOW!!!!!  WOWOWOW.
 Amy: She was daydreaming about being married to him....
 Alexandra: That was a maaaajor messup!  OOPS.
 Anne: HUSBAND DUH WHAT!?!?!?!?
 Alexandra: Baaaaad lady.
It was beyond hilarious... and, of course, sparked quite a few jokes later on when Henry Higgins kissed his mother on the cheek.  "She must be swooning after that husband line."  And, of course, when Mrs. Higgins told her son, "You aren't even dressed for this!" and he replied with, "I changed my tie," well, that was another messup.  It was evident that he was supposed to say cravat.  Right?

I wish we could have seen the Embassy Ball.  Wonder what Eliza's dress looked like?

[as it begins]Amy: Happyful sigh
 Melody: GLADSOME. :D
 Anne: Here comes queen Dracula...
 Amy: Humming along...
 Anne: Conducting with hands
 Melody: Eating cookie.....
Alexandra: Um. I am in character as Eliza. I'm so nervous. :-DAmy: I'm in character as Zoltan Karpathy and I'm annoying.Anne: I'm some random guy and my wig itches.Alexandra: Someone whack her (as in Amy as Zoltan) with a bottle.Melody: I'm in character as an extra. But *I* have the best dress.
The near-the-end scene at Mrs. Higgins' house, where Higgins confronts Eliza after she runs away, was superbly done.  However, by then our chat had pretty much deteriorated into exclamation points and repeating everything the characters said (with much laughter), so I won't include it here.  "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" was better than I've ever heard it before (and the beginning word that's repeated four times... y'all know what I'm talking about... well, he said it away from the mike, so you could barely hear it.  Excellent.).

At the end, we all stood and clapped when the cast came on for applause.  At least, Anne-girl and I did.  I assume Melody and Alexandra did too.  "Standing ovation! Scream and hug random strangers!"

Yep.  It was pretty amazing.  Now all we can do is hope that someone smuggled a video camera into the Royal Albert Hall and will put the whole thing up on YouTube.  Because, you know, in this case piracy is our only option.

Did you listen to MFL on Saturday?  What did you think of it?  Do you agree that this was the best interpretation of Henry Higgins the stage and screen has ever seen?  (Say yes to the last one.  Please.)


Maria Elisabeth said...

Ooooooooooooooooooooooh, you make me so sorry that I was stuck vacuuming and shopping for last-minute birthday presents when it was on. Grrrr. And then when I came back desperate to hear it somehow the sound didn't go on and I couldn't get on the computer at all on Sunday. So I'm listening to it now and it. is. splendifferous.

And I've only heard AA sing one song so far but I'll agree that this is the best interpretation of Henry Higgens the stage and screen has ever seen. End of story.

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Oh I knew I forgot something on Saturday! :( Well I wasn't feeling at all well on Sat so that would explain my lapse of memory.

Thanks so much for including that lovely YouTube video link - AA is just amazing! :)
And two AAs in the same production?!? Can a person bear so much joy?! :)

Oh m'dears! Reading excerpts from your chat MMG and also made me feel like I was right there with you! Oh the excitement! :D :D Thanks for including those bits Amy!!!

Ooooooohhh!!!!! I think I've found the soundbites online and I'm off to listen to them now! :) Will have to leave a comment later to let you know how I loved it! :)

Melody said...

Hahahahaha. I love your random bits of our chats. They're hilarious. We had so much fun, didn't we? :D

Well, though I am insane about somethings... I don't mind being known as the only sane one among you in this particular case. :P

For the record, I was saying "Who's Rex Harrison?" because you and Ally just said to forget him. See, I'm a quick forget-er. Haha.

I think what Mrs. Higgins said was something like "You mean to tell me my husband is going to bring"--something something...
"No, Mrs. Higgins, I mean to tell you that he is NOT your husband. Sorry."
Y'know, maybe she just got confused because he was old enough to be her husband. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Ahhh, you missed the second part of my line. I said "I'm in character as an extra. But *I* have the best dress."
Heeheehee. ;-) It was just somewhat hidden in the rest of the chat because y'all talked so FAST. :P

Anyways. Very fun. Although I didn't think Eliza or Freddy were as bad as you all did. :P That's probably because since I wasn't going crazy over AA, I had a little more room to be satisfied with other people...

Miss Dashwood said...

Maria Elisabeth,
Oooh, I'm SO glad you're enjoying it!!! Splendiferous indeed! Are you planning to blog about it when you finish? ;)
Glad you know what's what when it comes to Henry Higgins... I always knew you were a kindred spirit. :D

Miss Laurie,
Aww, I'm sorry you missed it! But I'm so glad you enjoyed reading snippets of our chat, and I do hope you enjoy listening to the soundbites! The entire thing will be available on the BBC Radio web site until Saturday, you know. :D

We did indeed. But then, when do we not? :D
Oh, oh, I get it. "Easily forgetful, is she not?" :P
Do not make remarks about age, if you please, m'dear. He is NOT old enough to be her husband. Young at heart and all that. Heeheeheee.
Oops, I did miss the second part of your line! Ha! I guess I didn't copy enough. I'll go fix it as soon as I finish commenting. Heh, and without that part it isn't really funny...
True, you proberly did have more room to be satisfied. But for my part, *I* would rather be crazily delighted with one character than satisfied with a baaa-ing sheep. :P

Hayden said...

Ooooooh!!! I am so jealous.
I had to spend that day sorting boy's clothes..."summer" cleaning

Oh well. Loved your comments on the show! Now I need to listen to that clip...

She seriously called him her HUSBAND????

how embarissing....

Hayden said...

Oh, it is still available to listen to!!!!

Me happy. I am now listening to it...

Okay, AA is great as Higgens.

I can tell already :)

Alexandra said...

It was a day too glorious for words. Posting my thoughts now. And I was totally screaming, so there.

That was wayyyyyyy too much fun. Sigh. I am still floating, you know. I'm spreading my wings and doing a thousand things...all that. People stop and stare, they don't bother me.


And yes, duh. Of course he's the best. I'm surprised that was even a question. oh, it was rhetorical. Ok. :-D

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Would love to see Anthony Andrews! He's amazingly funny! :)
“For the cold blooded murder of the English tongue!”

James Fleet does sound bored but I still like Colonel Pickering, such an honorable gentleman!

“The Scotch and Irish almost bring you to tears!” Adore 'Why Can's The English'!!! :)

Alun Armstrong hilarious in his role! Love his laugh!

Eliza – strong voice on the cockney songs but not exactly pretty.

Want to see the H flame scene! :)

Rain In Spain – I can just imagine them dancing!!! AA dancing! :)

I Could Have Danced All Night – Voice too flowery and weak.

Freddie very silly but still love him! :)
Love Julian Ovenden's voice! Suppose I have a mini crush on Julian Ovenden, not sure why... :)

AA hilarious imitating Zoltan!!! :)

“It's you who have hit me. You've wounded me to the heart!” sounds just like TSP talking to Marguerite, doesn't it?

'Get Me To The Church' – amazing good fun! Wish I could see Alun Armstrong in role, must have been hilarious!

AA's last scenes are just amazing! In general I hate the word "epic" but I'm tempted to use it to describe how much I enjoyed him in this role!

Still wish I could see these amazing actors preform it live but feeling like the luckiest girl in the world that I got this opportunity to hear AA and AA in these roles! Thanks for posting about this, I quite wasted my afternoon and enjoyed every minute of it! :)

Anonymous said...

SIGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Loved this post. Insanely mad that I don't have a gmail account, but that's okay. Heehee - Arwen and I were doing the EXACT same things as you guys! Especially the whole 'husband' messup!! AND when AA first came on, I was like, "Where IS he?! Oh, my STARS! He's going to talk now!" And then he did and I shrieked. (But it was just me and her in the house, so it's all good. Oh, the joys of having an older sister with a driver's license....)

I laughed the entire time I read this post! You guys are so funny.... Sounds like some of my Skype conversations with friends! (No, actually regular, face-to-face conversations with friends!) : P And all that about how whoever-played-Mrs.H daydreaming about being married to AA - HA!!!!! I cracked up. And then the tie thing.... Teehee...

And he SANG it! After seeing the movie, I was like, "Either that guy who played Prof. Higgins can't sing, or it doesn't have a singing part." And AA played it to PERFECTION. *sigh* And then when he quoted Zoltan later - B'HAHAHA!!! I laughed so hard.... : P

You guys were NOT the only ones clapping. *sigh* If I'd been there, I would have screamed "ENCORE!!!" over and over and over again until my voice died. *sigh*

Did I listen to it? Duh. What did I think of it? See my blog post. Do I agree that this was the best interpritation of Henry Higgins the stage and screen has ever seen? Is that a rhetorical question? Really? You actually have to ASK that? Pfft. I'll answer anyway.



Anonymous said...

AHHHHH!! It was Wonderful!!! (By the way- This is "Arwen", Eowyn's older sister... I've been meaning to start commenting on your blog but never got around to it- THIS seems like a great time to start!)

Eowyn and I listened, enraptured, as the show started. We were just as silly/excited/ecstatic/gushy as you were!! When we heard them talking about the bloke behind the pillar I kept saying "Here he comes! Here he comes!!!" Then he started TALKING!! THEN HE STARTED SINGING!!!!! Absolutely loverly... It was so fun to hear his voice!(even if we couldn't see him... Our hearts are broken!) He sounded so much older! But still the same, loverly AA.

I think he did a fabulous job with the role! (Of course, Sir Percy is incapable of doing anything wrong IMHO, unless it's his choice of vocabulary... as you said, it was mostly done away from the mike...mostly:( ) [After which Eowyn says, "Ooh, I LOOOOOOVED that! We don't even need to bleep it out now! Yay!"] He really added heart to Higgin's character.

Did you catch his mistake? He slipped up, but then fixed it perfectly! Bravo Higgins! Yoooooou did it!

I think Eliza did a fairly good job, but Eowyn shares your opinion about her Cockney accent.
Freddy was fantastic! I really enjoyed his version of "On the Street Where You Live". Much better than the movie version.

I'll have to disagree with your opinion of Colonel Pickering, too. (I loved it when Higgins called him "Pick"! Sounds like something Percy would do!) He's just such a sweet, thoughtful character! He always treated Eliza so well... And Mr. Fleet brought that out well. [After which Eowyn says, "I don't think he was good at all...."]

Alun Armstrong was FANTASTIC!!! He's such a great actor, and he played Mr. Doolittle perfectly! Such a funny character...

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. Plus we were able to record the whole thing! [Eowyn says, "SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!"] So whenever I'm lonely, I can just turn him on... (heehee) Too bad it wasn't on TV... In this one instance, I could almost condone piracy. [Eowyn says, "I heartily agree, m'dear. Piracy is acceptable when AA is concerned."]

Thanks for a wonderful post! It's good to know that we weren't the only ones going crazy with excitement...!

Love your blog! You're a true kindred spirit!


Anne-girl said...

What other reason is there? I KNOW I was so upset!You remember how upset I was that it wasn't on TV and youtube?

No no dear we are the sane ones for loving his awesomeness. BTW I'm re-listening to it right now!

Alexandra said...

Ok, ok, I've gotta know. Lotsa people have mentioned the AA slip-up...where was it? Was it the three...six...three part?

Oh, I read he stumbled a bit coming on stage. For some horrid reason I thought it was cute. :-D

Caroline L. said...

No! I didn't catch his mistake! Where is it??? I was waiting for after I read your post today.

Scullery Maid said...

Alas, I was unable to sit for three hours Saturday evening, but I have been listening to it here and there the past few days and am almost finished! Somehow, I missed the "Husband" line, but I went back and listened to it, and found it hilarious. BTW just before she said that she said "A FLOWER-GIRL?!?" in a way that reminded me of Lady Bracknell/Edith Evans saying "A HANDBAG?!?", and without thinking I said "Yes, somewhat large, and black, with handles to it".
I found AA Amazing and can't wait to hear his last "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?".

Anonymous said...

Here's his mistake. He said, "In three months - six months - three months if I'm lucky -..."

I think he caught himself and changed it PERFECTLY! You've got to admit that for sixty-four, the man is on his toes. : P


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Alexandra said...

Ahhhhhh!!! That's what it was. We were all wondering if it was a mistake or just his lines. I actually like it better myself. ;-) Bravo, AA. He is most definitely on his toes. Brilliant man. I knew there was a reason he's my favorite actor. :)

Marie said...

So, where exactly can you listen to it? It sounded wonderful...

Melody said...

Okay, so who was Jenny Galloway? Was she Mrs. Pearce? I wasn't very impressed with her Mrs. Pearce though... she always sounded lethargic or something. :P

Anyway. This post was published on July 16th. Little did we know that one year later... haha. :)

Miss Elliot said...

I saw this post before I watched TSP and so I was like "who's Anthony Andrews?" But I stumbled across this post again (thank you for pointing that out, my dear). I Googled pictures of A Andrews and I went SQEEEEE IT'S PERCY!!!!!! I had no idea this was going on. Where can you listen to this?