The Eynsford-Hill inevitability


A little over a year ago, I mentioned that one of the roles which I felt I was almost inevitably likely to play at some point in my life was young Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady.  Not, I think, due to arrogance on my part, but due to the sort of performer than I am and the sort of role that it is.  Well, said point is now on the horizon, the runaway steamroller of this iconic tenor role has well and truly hit me, and I can’t say I’m displeased.  The role is a small one, with relatively little to get to grips with in characterisation beyond “I am madly in love with Eliza Doolittle, who I can’t have”, but there is enough there to make me think that I might be able to do something with it.  And, of course, the role comes with a truly glorious prize in the form of the song ‘On the Street Where You Live’, which he gets to warble twice, once in each act.  I think it is uncontroversial to say that this is one of the best songs in the score, which is already far above average, and one of the best tenor songs in musical theatre.  You do have to slightly overlook the fact that Freddy is clearly utterly mad, and may in fact be a dangerous stalker, since he follows the leading lady home and waits on her street for days on end trying to get a glimpse of her.  But if you can ignore this uncomfortable truth, the song soars and swoops beautifully as the character waxes lyrical about the delights of walking down Wimpole Street, breathing the same air as his beloved.

Auditions for the production (which will run from 4th-8th March at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury should any discerning blog readers choose to attend) were eight days ago, rounding out the busy weekend which had already included two shows up in London the previous day and the stressful pleasures of teaching Sunday School in the morning.  Although the audition itself surely lasted less than ten minutes, I was in the place of audition for several hours, as they wanted to make decisions and announce results then and there.  This did at least avoid the horrible tensions of waiting for audition results, jumping every time the telephone rings and hiding from the postman.  It was very strange, though, as many people had been acting as though the casting of this particular role was a foregone conclusion, which actually made the audition harder in a way.  However, I refused to subscribe to the prevailing theory since, in amateur theatre just as much as in the professional world, there is always someone out there who is better than you.  No audition is ever truly a foregone conclusion and any audition panel who has made their mind up before the auditionees arrive deserves a good slap!

When I am older and less fresh-faced, I would love to have a crack at Professor Henry Higgins, a marvellous role for an actor who sings which would represent an incredible challenge.  But for now I will strive to do my best by the silly Eynsford-Hill boy, warble my aria passionately and continue to learn from those I perform with.  The role, though comparatively short on stage time, does present its own set of challenges and I am determined to make it my own.

  1. Congratulations! That truly is one of the most wonderful tenor tunes around! And you get to be there when Eliza sings, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you, is that all you blighters can do????”

    have fun

  2. And does it not bother you at all that no Englishman would ever say “On the street where you live”?
    Or, for that matter, “I’d be equally aswilling for a dentist to be drilling…”

  3. Tony, I have certainly heard that criticism of the lyric before, but I’m not sure that I agree. I obviously can’t speak for the English spoken when Shaw was writing Pygmalion, but in the context of the song, ‘on the street’ seems absolutely fine. ‘In the street’ is more usual in other contexts, but I’ve never been able to find anything wrong with ‘on the street’ in Freddy’s context. Of course, it could be that it’s an Americanism which has slowly come to be accepted over on this side of the Atlantic.

    That “as”, however, is annoying (as is hung rather than hanged later on), but it does make the line scan properly…

    hmh, I’m quite worried about the song you mention, as our Eliza is quiet fiery at the best of times and the script calls for her to hit Freddy on the head with her suitcase. I anticipate concussion!

  4. Of course it’s an Americanism; it may well have become current over here now but it wasn’t when MFL was written, and it certainly wasn’t at the period being depicted. Just carelessness.

    Making Higgins speak ungrammatically was sheer laziness. AJL was no Cole Porter; he couldn’t be bothered to think of another line.

  5. I love that song! I’ll most definitely be there.

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