On this day in… 1958
My Fair Lady opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 30 April 1958.
The opening of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane was one of the biggest nights in West End history.
Fresh from a triumphant run on Broadway, the show starred Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins, Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle and Stanley Holloway as Alfred Doolittle, with costumes by Cecil Beaton.
Rumoured to have been the most expensive production ever staged in the West End, the first night audience included Ingrid Bergman, Dirk Bogarde and Terence Rattigan.
The BBC said at the time that black-market tickets were selling for as much as £5 – almost five times their original price!
Rex Harrison told the BBC that: “I’m happier in the part in London for I am home, and Drury Lane is a glorious theatre to work in.”
Legendary West End press rep Vivienne Byerley, who worked for My Fair Lady producer Binkie Beaumont and his H.M. Tennent company, launched My Fair Lady in London. She was said to have “whipped London theatregoers into frenzied anticipation” leading up to the opening, and even convinced the Daily Express to print a countdown headline (“FOUR MORE DAYS”) every day leading up to the big night.
The show ran for 2,281 performances at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, becoming the longest-running musical ever at the theatre. It eventually closed on 19 October 1963.
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Miss Saigon (which returns to the West End at the Prince Edward Theatre next week) finally pipped My Fair Lady by becoming the longest running musical at The Lane on 19 December 1994.
My Fair Lady had first premiered on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on 15 March 1956, closing at the Broadway Theatre on 29 September 29 1962.
VIDEO: Celebrities arrive on the opening night of My Fair Lady in 1958