George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1912, a good 40-some years before Lerner and Loewe collaborated on the ingenious musical version, My Fair Lady. But like many theatergoers, I’ve grown accustomed to the songs. This uneven and listless new revival of Shaw’s original play underscores just how much was gained by adapting this extreme-makeover story to the conventions of musical comedy.
Claire Danes makes a respectable Broadway debut as Eliza Doolittle, the lower-class flower girl trained to pass as a duchess. But the casting choice isn’t completely loverly. While she ‘andles the tricky matter of Eliza’s evolving accents just fine, guv’nor, the virtues of Danes’ onscreen performances since her My So-Called Life days — thoughtfulness and expressive introspection — are ill-suited to the initially brash, take-no-guff Eliza.
Tony winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) doesn’t fare much better as dialect doctor Henry Higgins, flouncing about the stage like a tantrum-throwing 10-year-old who’s run out of Ritalin. Thankfully, Boyd Gaines as Colonel Pickering and Helen Carey as Henry’s mother hit the right notes to counterbalance Mays’ over-the-top antics. Higgins may be no ”ordinary man,” as the song goes, but Shaw deserves a less cartoonish hero. B-
(Tickets: 212-719-1300 or roundabouttheatre.org)