Category: Archive

Things are great in Glocca Morra

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

A dazzling new Broadway production of “Finian’s Rainbow” would be welcome at any time, but in a season that opened with a stumbling revival of “Bye Bye Birdie” and an unpromising original, “Memphis,” its arrival approaches the miraculous.
In January. 1947, when “Finian’s Rainbow” was first produced, Broadway had been steeped in nostalgic Americana, including the first great hit from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, “Oklahoma!”
Since “Finian’s Rainbow” takes place in the mythical American state of “Missitucky,” it was a fantasy, and a welcome addition to the Broadway menu of the day. The original production ran on Broadway for more than a year and a half, but has never had a major revival until now.
The members of the team which created “Finian’s Rainbow,” composer Burton Lane and writers E.Y.Harburg and Fred Saidy, were committed leftists who were eager to imbue their new work with their hopes and dreams for an idealized postwar world. The result was a lighthearted show with a solid liberal core with white racists as the villains and poor, sharecropping tobacco farmers of both races as the targets of their hatred.
Lane’s rich, tuneful score, with superb lyrics by the great “Yip” Harburg, is one of the very best ever written for Broadway, although the book is rather heavy going. For the new production, the troublesome text has been cropped and doctored a bit, first by David Ives, who adapted it last year when it debuted as part of the popular “Encores!” series, and again, more recently, by Arthur Perl, who touched it up for the Broadway transfer
The trimmed book is still slightly awkward, but it doesn’t really detract from the gleeful effect of the overall endeavor, enthusiastically directed by Warren Carlyle.
The joy which flows from the splendid company onstage is nearly palpable. Jim Norton, a Tony winner last season for his work in Conor McPherson’ “The Seafarer,” is an ideal, though slightly offbeat Finian, sly, funny and vulnerable as a crafty old Irishman who stole a pot of gold and fled to Rainbow Valley in the American southland with his daughter, Sharon.
Kate Baldwin’s Sharon is beautifully sung and reasonably well-acted, blending well with burgeoning matinee idol Cheyenne Jackson’s energetic Woody Mahoney, a war hero returning to Rainbow Valley in glory. Christopher Fitzgerald is splendid as Og, the leprechaun who arrives in pursuit of the plundered pot of gold, and stays long enough to become human and fall in love. As Dottie, a leader of the black segment of the sharecropping community, Terri White is huge-voiced and stunningly effective with her show-stopping number, “Necessity.”
Early in the show, the score’s best-known song asks “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” The singer, having left her beloved home in Ireland, doesn’t get an answer. Things at the St. James Theatre, however, are just terrific.

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