The sexual revolutionaries are at the Kennedy Center, ruining My Fair Lady


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The sexual revolutionaries are at the Kennedy Center, ruining My Fair Lady

By Austin Ruse

What would legendary musical playwrights Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe think of the current production of My Fair Lady at the Kennedy Center? They’d probably think, as I do, that much of it is pretty terrific. But they might also advise their family and friends to give it a pass.

Anyone who has seen the wonderful Rex Harrison film will instantly recognize this marvelous production — well, all of it except for one lengthy, gratuitous, and disgusting scene. Laird Mackintosh is delightful as professor Henry Higgins, and it’s a pleasure to hear him actually sing — recall that Harrison mostly spoke the songs given to him. It would be near impossible for anyone to top Audrey Hepburn as the wilted flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who can barely speak the King’s English and whom Higgins is out to save. But actress Shereen Ahmed takes the role solidly in hand, and she has a beautiful voice.


The songs are all there. Why Can’t the EnglishWouldn’t it be LoverlyWith a Little Bit of LuckThe Rain in Spain. All very traditional, including the surely now-more-controversial-than-ever Why can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?

The staging is a marvel, a great swinging and circling set, with a crowd of actors dancing across the stage this way and that. In short, it is loverly, and I caught myself on more than one occasion shedding a tear, as did my wife. And as I looked out of the corner of my eye, my two daughters 14 and 11, were grinning ear to ear.

Then came that scene that stopped us dead and really ruined the whole thing for us. Act 2, Scene 4: Alfred P. Doolittle is about to get married. His fortune has come in from a wealthy philanthropist who views him as a unique English moralist, which is particularly funny because he is a selfish, falling-down drunk living with his mistress. He now has 4,000 British pounds a year, and he must surrender to “middle-class morality” and marry his consort. 

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And what do we see from the very back row of Tier Two and, I dare say, every seat in the house? Men dressed as can-can dancers singing and dancing to Alfred P. Doolittle’s joyous swansong Get Me to the Church on Time. It appeared that Drag Queen Story Hour had come to the Kennedy Center and landed right smack in the middle of a timeless, family-friendly musical so that My Fair Ladytook on an entirely different meaning from what Lerner and Loewe intended.

We were far enough away that you could barely make out that these were men in dresses, so we breathed a sigh of relief. A friend had seen the matinee the day before and warned us that a “transgender moment” was coming. But we were not prepared for the act to devolve into a staged orgy with simulated sex acts performed by and on a man dressed as a garish bride, the focal point of the choreography. 


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At one point, the “bride,” whose low-cut wedding dress repeatedly falls down to expose “breasts,” jumps on the top of a piano and leans back while another man exaggeratedly fondles his “breasts.” Then the “bride” spreads his legs in the air while another man pumps his face into the “bride’s” crotch, quite obviously simulating oral sex. This in front of my daughters and every other child unlucky enough to be there.

But there is more. The “bride” jumps down, dances across the stage, and bends over while Alfred P. Doolittle lifts his dress and simulates sex “doggy-style” for the gentle audience. 

At the end of his number, there was rousing applause. I saw some of my fellow theater-goers clapping with their hands raised triumphantly above their heads. Take that, you blue-noses from Belle Haven. You thought you were coming to see My Fair Lady? Well, you are actually here to see ours!

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It should be noted that My Fair Lady is not a blue-nose play. Alfred P. Doolittle is not married to the woman he is living with. Eliza scoffs when her father calls the woman her stepmother. And just what is a single young lady from the streets doing living in the home of a wealthy single man? What are his intentions? When Eliza’s father hears she doesn’t need any of her old clothes sent over to the professor’s house, he exclaims, “I knew she had a career!” and even offers to sell her to Higgins for 5 British pounds. When she goes missing, Colonel Hugh Pickering phones the police, and the call is full of presumed naughtiness.

What’s more, there has always been a homosexual subtext in the musical, if you are looking for and want that sort of thing. Higgins is a “confirmed bachelor,” which used to be code for closeted men. Higgins cherishes his quiet life of utter freedom and looks with disdain upon the drama that comes with too-close proximity with female attachment. He sings, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man,” even asking his friend Pickering, “why can’t a woman be more like you?” Pickering, for his part, has some mysterious knowledge about women’s fashion.



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But all of this is already in this clever play about class. What the vulgar scene in the Kennedy Center performance shows is how much they miss the point. 

There is a classy way and a trashy way to make sexually suggestive jokes and allusions. It is the difference between risqué and rude — to hint at impropriety or to slap you in the face with it. The scene I refer to above felt like a slap in the face. After drawing us in, wooing us with lush costumes, witty repartee, heart-stirring music, and delightful, appealing performances of the favorite Victorian characters we have loved since childhood, they sucker-punched us.


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Why? I suppose because they can. I suppose it is to stick in our faces and pronounce there is no place that is safe for you and your family. We own it all. It was completely gratuitous and downright vulgar, and the question becomes, do these people, whoever they are, the Sexual Revolutionaries, intend to ruin everything?

The play runs at the Kennedy Center through Jan. 19, but this production is playing around the country. If you have not bought tickets, I would advise you to give it a pass. And if you have, you may want to walk out as Act 2, Scene 4 commences — or at least be ready to cover your children's eyes.

Austin Ruse is the author of Fake Science: Exposing the Left's Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data(Regnery Publishers) and Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point us to Christ (Tan Books).

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Published on Apr 16, 2018


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