As you may recall from my introductory post, I cast many different nets to ensure a diverse selection of music that chronologically reflected the evolution of popular music in the 20th and 21st century. One of the collections I included was the #1 Billboard album in sales each year in America, beginning in 1956. As the country and the world began to embrace the emerging sounds of rock and roll, musical theater continued to rule the day in overall popularity. The number one selling album in 1957? None other than the soundtrack by the original Broadway cast for “My Fair Lady”, a musical written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
This isn’t as big of a departure for me as one might expect, as I spent several years of my life fairly well immersed in the world of musical theater as my aspiring thespian son performed in show after show. I have seen dozens of different musicals, at all levels of performance, from middle school to Broadway. In all of that time, I have never seen “My Fair Lady”, so I enjoyed getting to know these songs that are probably far more familiar to others.
Performed by the original Broadway cast, including the leads Rex Harrison and the legendary Julie Andrews, this soundtrack has all of the elegance, musicality and wit of a true Broadway classic. That being said, I’m not too much of a musical snob to acknowledge that in aggregate, I’m not sure if I felt these songs fully matched up to some of the Rodgers and Hammerstein productions of the same era. One song stood out above the others, for multiple reasons. “I Could Have Danced All Night” is the signature song from this show, performed by Julie Andrews and the cast. While it is a beautiful rendition, like another of my posts, I was immediately transported to another cinematic performance of this song, the absolutely ridiculous and unforgettable performance of this same song by Robin Williams, Dianne Wiest, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, and Hank Azaria in “The Birdcage”. It’s not easy to upstage Julie Andrews, but if you have ever seen it, I have no doubt you agree with me.
This era of music was all about stretching boundaries and reaching new places, and yet with “My Fair Lady”, it is and was very popular to retreat to the safety of the Broadway musical. For one, I welcome and greatly appreciate this unexpected turn.