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Bernard Shaw in Brazil

The Reception of Theatrical Productions, 1927–2013

Rosalie Rahal Haddad

In 1927, the first production of Pygmalion was staged in Brazil. At the time, over 65 per cent of the adult Brazilian population was illiterate, which makes it all the more surprising that directors and producers dared to stage such a controversial playwright – a writer who had often been rejected by the more sophisticated theatregoer in England.
This book analyses the reception of almost a century of Brazilian productions of Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, Arms and the Man, Candida and Mrs Warren’s Profession, setting that analysis in the context of the political, economic and cultural climate at the time of each production. What emerges is a faithful portrait of a country where theatre and theatre criticism are precariously established, and the theatregoer with no knowledge of English cannot be certain that the translation or adaptation they are watching bears anything more than a passing resemblance to the original. Nonetheless, Brazil has also witnessed a number of fine productions, presented by highly skilled actors and directors and reviewed by well-informed and articulate critics.
As well as supplying fascinating detail on the wide range of Shaw productions staged in Brazil over the last ninety years, this volume also generates valuable insights into the complexities of twentieth-century Brazilian society.
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Chapter TwoMy Fair Lady


← 26 | 27 →CHAPTER TWO

My Fair Lady

It is important to state at the outset of this chapter that, although it was based on Pygmalion, My Fair Lady was, almost literally, written over Shaw’s dead body. Nonetheless, it is included in the present study because of its important role in bringing Shaw’s name to the attention of the Brazilian public. To this day many Brazilians are convinced that the musical was written by Shaw himself. In fact, of course, during his own life-time he had been implacably opposed to the very idea of transforming his play into a musical.

In the mid-1930s, film producer Gabriel Pascal acquired the rights to produce film versions of several of Shaw’s plays, Pygmalion among them. However, after his negative experience with The Chocolate Soldier, a Viennese operetta based on Arms and the Man, Shaw refused permission for Pygmalion to be adapted as a musical. It was therefore only after Shaw died in 1950, that Pascal was able to ask lyricist Alan Jay Lerner to write the musical adaptation. Lerner agreed, and he and his partner Frederick Loewe began work. They quickly realized, however, that the play violated several key rules for constructing a musical: the main story was not a love story, there was no subplot or secondary love story, and there was no place for an ensemble. Many people, including Oscar Hammerstein II, who, with Richard Rodgers, had also tried his hand at adapting Pygmalion into a...

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