Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Lerner Would Rewrite Even "My Fair Lady"

Cleveland Press September 13, 1966

"If left alone I'd rewrite anything, even ‘My Fair Lady'."

The man who would do a thing like that to Americas most successful musical is Alan Jay Lerner, the fellow who wrote the lyrics and adapted Shaw's "Pygmalion" for the show. Frederick Loewe wrote the music.

Lerner was in Cleveland for the opening of his latest show, "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever," at the Hanna Theater last night.

"Clear Day" played in New York a year ago, but this is a new production on which Lerner has been able to exercise his desire for rewriting.

He says that he has purposely kept away from rehearsals so that he wouldn't do anything else to it.

"I THINK the show is much more in focus now. When it opened it went in four different directions. Have I ever had a second chance at a show? Sure. I rewrote 'Camelot' after it opened, about a third of it.

"And the movie 'Gigi.' It was finished and we saw a screening and realized that it really wasn't very good, so we redid quite a bit of it "

Whatever he did to it must have been right. "Gigi" won nine Academy Awards.

THE MAN who isn't afraid to tamper with success ("Fair Lady" has reportedly earned him about $9,000,000) has just finished the screen treatment of "Camelot" from which he has removed all the fantasy.

"We've taken out Merlin and his tricks. Film is too realistic and by doing away with the small bits of fantasy we can give the entire movie an air of fantasy."

Throughout his conversation Lerner uses the term "musical play" rather than "musical comedy.'

"MUSICAL COMEDY makes no effort toward the reality of a play," he explained. "You have cartoon characters with some good songs and good jokes.

"When a show is serious, people recognize it as a musical play, but when it's funny people don't make the distinction. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote musical plays. Rodgers and Hart wrote musical comedies."

As an author, Lerner naturally shows great concern. for a show's book, says that he wouldn't want to write lyrics for the third form of musical show -- the operetta.

"OPERETTA isn't so good for lyric writers, not when you have a soprano get out there on a stage reaching for notes only a dog could hear."

His next show will be called "Coco," will be based on the life of the great French designer, Coco Chanel. Composer, conductor, pianist Andre Previn is writing the music for it.

What will the show be like ?

"I hope it will be marvelous," Lerner replied.