When the actress Lauren Ambrose arrives in the lobby at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it takes a minute to recognize that she is indeed Lauren Ambrose. A wide-brimmed hat hides her flaring hair. A wool overcoat hides the rest of her. A girlish, clean-scrubbed face peeks out in between.
That half-hidden face will soon be more visible and a lot dirtier when “My Fair Lady,” the 1956 Lerner and Loewe musical, begins previews on March 15 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Ms. Ambrose, who has been peripheral to the public eye for a few years now, will play Eliza Doolittle, the pert cockney flower seller who transforms her life through sheer force of will and correct vowel placement.
She had come to the Met because an art historian cousin had tipped her off to a Renoir portrait of the first Eliza, the Austrian actress Tilla Durieux who created the role in George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” Lerner and Loewe’s source text. She thought that maybe it would help her open up “this antique play, find a new way through it,” she said.
Diana Rigg, seated left, as Mrs. Higgins and Ms. Ambrose as Eliza Doolittle during a rehearsal of “My Fair Lady” in a basement room at Lincoln Center.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times