There are two ways of reading Dominic McHugh’s Loverly: The Life and Times of My Fair Lady. Either as a musicologist or, at least, reader of music, you may follow every step in the five-year evolution of the great musical My Fair Lady, down to the minutest changes in the tunes, lyrics, orchestral music, and story—their number is astronomical. Or, if you cannot read music, you can still follow the many steps involved in the five years spent adapting Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion into a stage musical. These include acquisition of rights, problems with casting, major and minor rewrites of the words and music, stressful rehearsals, and arrival at a final Broadway version that, starting in 1956, ran for six years. All this plus an extensive aftermath.

Unless you snobbishly and stubbornly dismiss the musical comedy as a form of art, you must recognize Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick...


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