Patricia Noonan plays the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
I first met Eliza Doolittle through my Grandmother.
At her house, she had a record player (which, to 5-year-old me, was nothing short of magical) and one of our favorite albums to put on was My Fair Lady. I would don one of her old nightgowns (the height of Ascot fashion in my eyes) and dance around to “I Could Have Danced All Night” for hours. Growing up in a family of athletes and wonderfully rabid sports fans (myself included) moments like these introduced me to another world of possibilities.
From the moment my brilliant Higgins (Jeff Binder) sent me a copy of Pygmalion before rehearsals even began, getting to know Eliza now – as an adult and with this incredible company of actors – has been a journey of discovering her all over again. There is so much to love about Eliza. Her spunk, her tenacity, her heart…how deeply she cares about everythingfrom chocolate to horse races…and, perhaps most of all, her transformation. Revisiting Pygmalion, this line of Eliza’s jumped out to me in her final scene with Higgins: “If I can’t have kindness, I’ll have independence.” As Matt Aument (our genius music director and teammate every night onstage at the piano) said to me, one of the things that is so compelling about Eliza is that – unlike Cinderella who is transformed by magic and no agency of her own – Eliza’s transformation comes from her own intelligence, hard work, determination, and the bravery to seize an opportunity to learn (shhh…don’t tell Higgins or Pickering…they still have to sing “You Did It”). One of the things I discovered while researching this role is that a “common flower girl” would have made about 39 pounds a year in 1912, while a “lady in a shop” would have made about 300. That is the huge change Eliza sets out to make in her life when she walks into Higgins’ office for the first time. What we discovered in the rehearsal process is that she becomes a woman as well.
Eliza has been and continues to be such a gift of a role since hers is not only a journey of transformation, but also one of growing up. Every night I get to start from the childlike simplicity of “Loverly” with a “family” of castmates I adore before discovering the first notes of self-knowledge and love of “I Could Have Danced All Night” and ultimately growing into a “consort battleship,” a woman who can tell Higgins she’ll be fine “Without You.” It’s an honor to take on this iconic role and I’m so grateful for my virtuosic castmates and for the opportunity to play such a “strong woman” as our director Kristen Coury (another “strong woman” who, like Eliza, has transformed Gulfshore with her tenacity and heart) called her opening night. Shaw, Lerner, and Lowe have created a delicious challenge and Kristen, Matt, and Adam Cates (our wonderfully imaginative choreographer) and the rest of the cast and team have created quite a show. No doubt I will be continuing to find Eliza in every performance to come.