Call them what you want, rags-to-riches or fairy tales – either way, My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman, both playing The Straz over the coming weeks, are contemporary variants of a familiar plot.
An uptight man of particular stature brings under his wing a woman who many considered tarnished and makes her over. During the process feelings emerge, arguments ensue, they split, they pine, they reunite in loving splendor.
Between movies, television and theater, stories are told, retold and then told again because they are good — and beloved by many. Both Lady and Woman have been on stage and the silver screen, albeit taking opposite paths, but delighting audiences nonetheless.
And yes, we’ve read numerous takes about misogyny vs. the empowerment of women and we leave it to you to decide whether you want to continue reading.
We’re going to have a little fun comparing and contrasting these love stories.
Eliza – A ragamuffin who sells flowers on the streets of London.
Vivian – A streetwalker with a heart of gold.
Eliza – Shabby without the chic Edwardian dress and hat, with smudges on her face and an ear-abusing Cockney accent.
Vivian – Dressed for “success” in a blue-and-white cutout spandex mini dress and thigh-high black patent boots that show walkin’ wear, including a safety pin to help pull up its zipper.
Eliza – Henry Higgins is a professor of phonetics who makes a bet he can teach her to speak “proper” English.
Vivian – Edward Lewis is a handsome, rich businessman who needs a “date” for six days.
CHANGE OF VENUE
Eliza – She goes from living in poverty in Lisson Groves area of London to a 10-bed mansion on Wimpole Street for her “I talk pretty” training.
Vivian – She lives with her bestie and fellow streetwalker Kit De Luca in a three-story walk-up in Los Angeles and takes up residence with Edward in the penthouse suite at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.
ASKING FOR HELP
Eliza – Endures seemingly never-ending elocution lessons and learns table manners from the maid.
Vivian – Seeks etiquette counseling and clothes shopping guidance from the charming hotel manager.
Eliza – “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”
Vivian – “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”
Eliza – Her first emergence as “a lady” occurs at the Ascot Horse Races, dressed in a knock-out Edwardian dress and fabulous hat. She briefly reveals her former life when she yells, “Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin’ arse!”
Vivian – Mixes and mingles with many of Edward’s polished acquaintances at a polo match in a knock-out Rodeo Drive ensemble that, too, includes a fabulous hat.
Eliza – Freddy Eynsford-Hill, whom she meets at Ascot, calls on her singing “On the Street Where You Live” on approach to the house.
Vivian – When seen with his potential business takeover target, Edward tells her “I saw you talking to David Morse today. I was … jealous.”
BEAUTY WITH BORROWED JEWELS
Eliza – At her final exam, the Embassy Ball, she is elegantly clad in white tea gown, forward fashion for the time period, wearing “hired” diamond jewelry.
Vivian – For an evening at the opera, she wears an off-the-shoulder scarlet red evening gown with a ruby and diamond necklace on loan from a jeweler — which Edward amusingly snaps the lid on as she admires it.
Eliza – The choices are many, and you might disagree, but we’re going with “I Could Have Danced All Night,” that she exuberantly sings after an impromptu dance with Higgins.
Vivian – The iconic Roy Orbison song “Oh, Pretty Woman” wasn’t in the original production of the musical but is now featured as the show concludes.