Clive Davis Reveals Why He's Reviving 'My Fair Lady' on Broadway (Guest Column)
The legendary music executive explains how his "frustration" with "The Producers," "Hairspray" and "The Book of Mormon" led to his renewed interest in "the greatest musical of all time."
This story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Last September, Clive Davis announced he'd be bringing My Fair Lady back to Broadway in 2014. No casting has yet been announced (although the names Colin Firth and Anne Hathaway have been whispered) and no opening date has been set. Below, the legendary music executive explains why he's bringing Eliza Doolittle back to life.
The first music that really impacted me was Broadway theater songs. I was a teenager when I saw Oklahoma and Carousel, and I was amazed at hearing one incredible song, one future classic, after another. They lingered with me and were the songs I sang in the shower.
And then when luck and fate landed me at Columbia Records, it was already the home of Camelot, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. As Columbia's general counsel, I was to do the contracts for Ebb and Kander's Cabaret, and Comden and Green's Subways Are for Sleeping, among many others. I was lucky to be invited to the opening nights -- and how I loved them!
So, in 1974 when I founded Arista Records, I was determined that my new company would make its mark with original Broadway cast albums. Indeed, in our relative infancy, we landed the original cast album of Chicago, and the music from this legendary show joined an exploding roster that included Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, The Grateful Dead and Aretha Franklin -- all signed during the label's first six years. I envisaged Arista releasing many more cast albums because we had great artists who could record songs coming from new Broadway shows. Look what Robert Goulet did with "On the Street Where You Live," Streisand with "People," Louis Armstrong with "Hello, Dolly!" I was ready with Barry and Aretha as well as Dionne Warwick and, of course, Whitney Houston.
But things changed. Yes, Manilow recorded "Memory" from Cats and Whitney recorded "I Know Him So Well" from the musical Chess, but there was no new musical being written that contained a rich body of musical gems destined to be classics. Over the years, I grew more and more frustrated. I would listen to the songs of The Producers, Hairspray, The Book of Mormon, all promising to be hit Broadway shows, but none giving birth in profusion to songs that would be part of our generation's legacy.
Well, the years passed and I realized that my ambition of being involved with new Oklahomas, new Carousels was looking less and less likely. But rather than quit, I came up with the idea of celebrating the genre itself, the vintage Broadway musical, by reviving what could be considered the greatest musical of all time: My Fair Lady. What music! With that special combination of literate, incisive, penetrating lyrics and glorious, wonderful melodies.
It's taken over a year to secure the rights, but I aligned with Roger Berlind, Scott Landis and the very talented Nederlander Organization to lock up the rights to this fabulous musical. We will do a first-class production that will remind everyone what a great musical is all about, what a great script is all about and what great songs are all about. I'm already eagerly anticipating an opening night no one will ever forget.