Before I came to Germany, Mara messaged me on Facebook to tell me she was going to buy tickets for us to see My Fair Lady. When I Skyped her at a later date, she informed me that it would be in German, so she ended up not buying the tickets. I told her that it would be good for me to see it anyway, especially because it was only 7 euros with a student discount!
I have learned about My Fair Lady in my musical theatre history class, but admittedly, I’ve never actually seen it. Though I knew the basic story line, I decided to Wikipedia the plot before the show so that I would have the story fresh in my mind.
As Mara and I got ready for the show, I wanted to wear wedges because I think it’s fun to dress up for the theatre. She convinced me otherwise, though, because it was slightly chilly and we were going to walk part of the way there, though I insisted that wedges are, in fact, very comfortable. Eventually, I gave in and wore some boots with my dress and tights, and Mara gave her stamp of approval, saying I looked very European. Out of necessity, Germans love to wear really cute outfits with shoes that I would not normally choose. For example, when Mara picked me up from the airport, she wore a dress, cardigan, tights, and Nikes. I suppose since they all walk everywhere, they have a general agreement that practicality overrules typical fashion, thus creating a new normal.
From the balcony of the opera house before the show
Anyway, the opera house was very beautiful, but not in the way I expected. The exterior is very old, but the inside was extremely modern with almost all white decor, accented with gold and black. They had beautiful spiral staircases as well. Before we made it to our seats, we ventured out to the balcony where many guests enjoyed a pre-show wine or beer and some enjoyed a cigarette. Then, we checked our coats and found our seats in the house right of the balcony.
Though the show hadn’t started, there was a man at a podium with a single spotlight giving what seemed like a lecture. Most people weren’t paying attention, but then all of a sudden someone hushed the crowd and he continued. The crowd laughed, and Mara translated saying he was joking that now that it was quiet he was going to start from the beginning. Apparently, the idea of his talk was about different ways of speaking. He left, and it was time for the show to begin.
Because it was a golden age show, there was still an overture, and it was one of the moments I appreciated being in the balcony because I could see the orchestra. Music is a universal language 🙂
The curtain rose, but only halfway, to reveal a train station. The concept of this production seemed to be set in present day, and Eliza was selling pinwheels instead of flowers. She wore a grungy Mickey Mouse t-shirt, white baggy pants, and a dirty white coat. The actor who played Henry Higgins turned out to be the same man who gave the pre-show lecture.
When the scene shifted to the home of Henry Higgins, it was at first a single story, but the curtain rose to reveal a three-story building, which could move up and down through the floor of the stage. The house was all pink — pink walls, pink floors, and even Henry Higgins was dressed in pink accents. Eliza was blonde, so it almost seemed like she was a Barbie doll that he was dressing up in his doll house. A little Ibsen inspiration there, perhaps? I sat wondering if I would have made these connections if I was watching the show in English. While in Germany, I’ve noticed that my other senses are much more active, which is kind of exciting.
At intermission, they once again sold wine, beer, pretzels, and gelato. Mara and I had some gelato because it was only one euro, and I am amazed that you can get anything for a euro anymore! I was hoping to find a program because it occurred to me that no one handed me one before the show. I hunted an usher down who had a handful, but she requested 3,50 euros, which I didn’t think was justified for a book in a foreign language. I’ll just keep my ticket as a souvenir.
As far as the story, I was able to follow it really well. There were moments when the audience laughed at one-liners while I was left in the dark, but I was able to understand the big picture.
The German audience was different than in the US. If they think something is particularly funny, the don’t just laugh – they applaud. As an actor, I think that might be a little distracting and interrupt the flow of the story, but maybe they’re just used to it. Speaking of applauding, this was the longest curtain call I have ever seen! First, the secondary characters bowed, then Eliza and Henry Higgins, then all of them together. Repeat. Finally, the chorus entered and bowed, followed by the re-entrance of the secondary characters and principals. Repeat. More bows. More bows. The curtain closed, yet everyone maintained a steady flow of clapping, so it came back up. They acknowledged the orchestra, and the conductor ran up to stage and bowed. They went through the motions of taking turns bowing again. Finally, Eliza and Henry bowed individually, and I thought that would be the end, but of course they were joined by the secondary characters again. FINALLY the curtain closed and people stopped clapping. When all of this started, I was surprised at how rude people were for leaving right after the show ended, but they must have known that the curtain call would be never-ending. I realized when we were finally done that almost half of the house had already cleared. Yet, even though the audience loved it so much, it was never a standing ovation, which I found odd.
Since we actually stayed through the entire curtain call, by the time Mara and I left, used the restroom, and retrieved our checked coats, the opera house was incredibly empty. In this seemingly private moment, I decided to entertain Mara by reenacting Eliza’s “I Could Have Danced All Night,” complete with stretching my leg along the banister of the spiral staircase (note: I was simply doing what she had done in the show). I was startled to receive applause of my own from an unknown spectator — a middle aged man at the top of the stairs who was quite amused by this silly American. I could have danced all night, but I took that as a cue to remember that I was at a classy establishment and I needed to walk down the stairs like a normal person….