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re: I just saw the show on Thursday (mild spoilers, then major spoilers)
Posted by: lordofspeech 09:54 am EST 02/10/19
In reply to: I just saw the show on Thursday (mild spoilers, then major spoilers) - mikem 09:43 am EST 02/09/19

I agree overall. Though I thought Higgins and Benanti’s Eliza were well suited to each other, I felt that there was the right chemistry. But it’s not romance chemistry; it’s a kind of being-known-to-each-other chemistry.

But your point is well taken. Ambrose’s frailty left my mind to wander too darkly down the roads of socio-economics. Had she been molested by her father? By those buskers? When she sold no flowers on a given day, would she be on the streets for the night? I don’t think Shaw (or Lerner) meant to be pointing to that. But maybe.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MONEY AND CLASS IN THIS MUSICAL COMEDY:

Benanti had a wholesome, almost cocky sense of her own worth. I wasn’t worried about her life on the streets of London the way I might be for a modern street-person in New York. I wonder...is there evidence in the play that she can read and write? She’s good with numbers and finance.

There are lower class, impoverished people who miraculously maintain a sunny disposition, who rise above the alcoholism and neglect in which they find themselves (and from what we see of her father and hear of her relatives’ relation to gin, it’s a hard life). (Those young boys on the subway cars who start dancing and doing flips in the bars in subway cars come to mind—how do they maintain those high spirits?) I think we have to sense that ebullience and grit in Eliza or else the show can’t work. (Just as we do with Celie in « Purple. », though Celie’s history is much harsher. Celie is shut down, horribly, but her spirit is still there to be awakened.)

Celie, Nancy in Oliver, Annie in Annie, and Eliza.
Except for Nancy (who cannot detach from her abuser), financially challenged women whose innate sense of self-worth survives to be awakened when the right educator-deliverer comes along. And what about Eliza’s mother, whom her father seems to have abandoned? Do we know from the text if she’s still living? Did she have a hand in raising Eliza? Did anyone? For her father, Eliza seems nothing but a possible meal-ticket.
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