Through a career that spanned three decades, lyricist/librettist Alan Jay Lerner and his partner, composer Frederick Loewe, became virtually synonymous with the blockbuster Broadway musical. A list of their hits all but defines the genre: “Brigadoon,” “Paint Your Wagon,” “Camelot,” the movie musical GIGI, and their biggest triumph, “My Fair Lady.”
The tuneful adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” “My Fair Lady” opened on Broadway in 1956 to rapturous notices and packed houses. Brooks Atkinson of THE NEW YORK TIMES, for one, proclaimed “My Fair Lady” as “the most civilized play of its time and one of the finest of the century.” On the occasion of Lerner’s death, William A. Henry III of TIME remembered how these classic lyrics “consistently matched ["Pygmalion"'s] wit, verve and acerbic class consciousness.”
Alan Jay Lerner
- "My Fair Lady"
- "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"
- "Paint Your Wagon"
- Julie Andrews
- Leonard Bernstein
- Agnes de Mille
- Moss Hart
- Michael Kidd
- Frederick Loewe
In the 1970s, after Loewe fell ill, Lerner continued writing with composers including Andre Previn and Charles Strouse, but such subsequent musicals as “Coco” and “Dance a Little Closer” never quite caught on with critics and playgoers. In 1978 Lerner produced his autobiography, ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE. By then he had quite a story to tell — the lyricist had been married a total of eight times — but as NEW YORK TIMES critic Mel Gussow noted, “The book is more professional than personal.” He continued that the volume’s delights include a look at Lerner and Loewe’s labors with “My Fair Lady”: “dashing off ‘The Rain in Spain’ in 10 minutes, agonizing over ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ … and agreeing to eliminate ‘With a Little Bit O’ Luck’ until it stopped the show at its first performance in New Haven.”
Source: Excerpted from CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS ONLINE, Gale Group, © 2001 Gale Group. Reprinted by permission of The Gale Group.
Photo credits: Photofest