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Meet the Tony Nominees: Lauren Ambrose of ‘My Fair Lady’

Category General

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Lauren Ambrose shares why Eliza Doolittle’s story remains impactful

After a 25-year absence from Broadway stage, My Fair Lady has a new production at Lincoln Center Theater. Directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific and The King and I), the cast includes Harry Hadden-Paton (Henry Higgins), Norbert Leo Butz, (Alfred P. Doolittle), Diana Rigg (Mrs. Higgins) and Alan Corduner (Colonel Pickering). Lauren Ambrose, a two-time Emmy nominee for Six Feet Under, plays Eliza Doolittle, the flower seller who is hungry to do whatever she can to transform her life.  Now playing at the Vivian Beaumont, My Fair Lady has been nominated for ten Tony Awards, including a nod for Ambrose. Back in 2006, The X-Files actress worked with director Bartlett Sher in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Awake and Sing

Lauren Ambrose stars in ‘My Fair Lady’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Lauren Ambrose stars in ‘My Fair Lady’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

How did you make Eliza Doolittle your own and connect to her? 
Lauren Ambrose:
Our production tried to draw out some of the original intentions that George Bernard Shaw started with, which is the source material for the musical. It’s all there in the text. It’s unbelievable. People think of this as a story of this man who transforms a woman into his ideal woman. But in the play she finds him and asks for lessons. That is very moving to me. It is what starts the whole trajectory of the transformation. 

Then the real transformation is after the ball, after the princess stuff. It’s in Act II when she figures out oh, my goodness, what am I going to do with my life now? Now that I’ve got this – the manners and veneer of a fancy lady –  who am I? How do I fit into the world, especially in 1911?  

What is it like to play Eliza? 
Lauren Ambrose:
I am so honored to be playing this woman who has this incredible transformation – the most important one in her life. She comes into her strength and power. There are great roles out there. And you can’t play them all. But I get the opportunity to go on this journey eight times a week. It’s not only an honor; I also think of it as a responsibility. I take it very seriously. 

And to get to work with these people – that we’ve all made this thing together – has been extraordinary.  I love and am grateful to be working with Bart. I worked with him on Awake and Sing. That is how we met. I’m surrounded by the most incredible artists. Every day I’m astounded by their artistry. The team and performers who are on stage every night absolutely blow me away. We created something that is unique. I love working with the amazing Harry Hadden-Paton who is playing Higgins, Allan Corduner who is playing Pickering and Linda Mugleston who is playing Mrs. Pearce. We have all created this new version together that only we could have done. It would never be anything like anybody else’s. What I love about being an actor is the collaboration. It’s, it’s the best part.

Have you heard from your television castmates? 
Lauren Ambrose:
Yes, I have gotten some nice messages. And people have been coming to see the show, so that’s great. Also, I’m happy to get to sing. 

Why does the story resonate for you? 
Lauren Ambrose:
By the end of the play, Eliza and Higgins have an equality. And that is the essence of Pygmalion. Of course she leaves. It’s so important to me as an actor that they can look at each other and be equals. And also, there is a part of the student that has to throw off their teacher, throw off their mentor and guru and find their own new way. 

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