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Learning Experience

Claire Danes and her tutor Jefferson Mays.

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Shaw’s Pygmalion is a classic of the strange-bedfellows theatrical genre, and this fall’s Broadway revival presents what might be the season’s oddest couple. “I’m a sucker for a challenge, really,” says theater neophyte Claire Danes, noting that she doesn’t yet have Eliza Doolittle’s Cockney accent down. “I like being in over my head.” She’d never read the play before being offered the part, and hasn’t even seen My Fair Lady. Meanwhile, Tony-winning veteran Jefferson Mays, her soon-to-be Henry Higgins, has been watching taped sessions of Parliament, and if anything, the role may be “too comfortable” for him—though it’s different from his recent British-accent outing, as a Cockney World War I soldier in last season’s Journey’s End alongside Danes’s boyfriend, Hugh Dancy. “It seems strange to know so much about theater through boyfriends,” admits Danes (she’s also Billy Crudup’s ex). But this is her chance to stand up on her own, critics be damned—to make a transformation every bit as profound as Eliza’s. “It’s the best makeover story of all time,” she says of Pygmalion. “Everybody loves a good makeover story.”

Pygmalion
Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre; opens October 18.


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Fall Preview 2007

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