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1958: My Fair Lady dazzles London
The Broadway musical My Fair Lady has opened for its first night in London, to a rapturous reception.

The event, at the Drury Lane theatre, was star-studded: Ingrid Bergman, Dirk Bogarde, Terence Rattigan and John Strachey were among those who arrived at the theatre to be greeted with cheers and applause by a crowd of several hundred lining the street.

The show has also attracted the attention of ticket touts for the first time in the West End. Black-market tickets were selling for as much as 5 - almost five times their original prices. There were several incidents between police and touts before the show, and two men were later arrested and charged.

I'm happier in the part in London
Rex Harrison
The show kept much of its original Broadway cast, with Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins, and Julie Andrews playing Eliza Doolittle. From the moment the curtain went up to reveal the opening scene, at St Paul's Church outside Covent Garden, the applause was thunderous.

Mr Harrison, who has played Professor Higgins for the last two years in New York, admitted he was nervous before his first performance in front of a London audience.

But, he said, he was glad to be back in London. "I'm happier in the part in London," he said, "for I am home, and Drury Lane is a glorious theatre to work in."

Sold out

The excitement surrounding the transfer of the musical to London has been intense. Advance ticket sales are estimated at over 350,000, and the first month is already sold out - with more expensive seats sold out until the end of the year.

The London show is expected to match its Broadway version in breaking records: the New York show has earned $7.3m (2.5m) in its two-year run, overtaking South Pacific to become the second-highest grossing Broadway musical. Only Oklahoma, which has made $9m (3.2m), is more popular.

The actors are now waiting nervously for the first reviews. But whatever the critics think, the show's popularity is already assured.

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Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews played Eliza Doolittle

Interviews with the cast


In Context
The reviews of the first night of My Fair Lady were unanimous in declaring the London version of the musical a triumph.

The show went on to break all box-office records, in London and New York. The Broadway musical's total takings exceeded the then all-time highest figure of $10m (3.4m), while in London it ran for just over five and a half years, with 2281 performances, and earned a record 3.5m. By the time it closed, in October 1963, almost four and a half million people had seen it.

Four years later, Warner Brothers bought the film rights for another record sum of 2m. The film was released in 1964: it also starred Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins, with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. It was nominated for 12 Oscars, winning eight, and remains a classic to this day.

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