Music by Burton Lane; lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Book by E. Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy; adaptation by David Ives
Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle
Starring Kate Baldwin, Jeremy Bobb, Philip Bosco, Guy Davis, Alina Faye, Cheyenne Jackson, Jim Norton
Performances March 26-29, 2009
NY City Center, 131 West 55th Street
For its final work in an unusually successful season (which began with On the Town and Music in the Air), Encores! presented an engaging version of the 1947 musical, Finian’s Rainbow. With a smart, sassy book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, Harburg’s clever lyrics and Burton Lane’s sweetly beguiling music, Finian comes across as, if not an unearthed masterpiece, the sort of a respectably solid show that deserves an airing for new audiences.
The story is a messy mix of the magical and the mundane, with some progressively racial attitudes for its day. Irish immigrant Finian McLonergan (the delightful Jim Norton) and his marriageable daughter Sharon (the adorable Kate Baldwin) arrive in America with a crock o’gold Finian stole from a leprechaun, which he hopes helps them become rich in their new country. The pair settle in Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, where Sharon falls in love with handsome local yokel Woody Mahoney (a perfectly-cast Cheyenne Jackson), leprechaun Og (a winkingly funny Jeremy Bobb) slowly turns human while searching for the lost gold, and racist Senator Hawkins (an amusingly blustery Philip Bosco) gets his comeuppance when he’s transformed into a black man (a spirited Ruben Santiago-Hudson).
Combing standard Irish and black jokes with standard romantic comedy, Finian’s Rainbow bubbles along nicely, spurred on by wonderful Lane-Harburg songs like “Old Devil Moon” and “Look to the Rainbow” and outstanding dance numbers choreographed by director Warren Carlyle, particularly “Dance of the Golden Crock,” performed with gusto by versatile American Ballet Theatre veteran Alina Faye, with Guy Davis lending support on the harmonica.
The whole happy shebang is wrapped up with a reprise of one of the score’s most soaring melodies, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?”, as Rob Berman leads the Encores! Orchestra in a spiffy rendition of Lane’s lilting music, finally back on Broadway (well, almost) after all these years.
originally posted on timessquare.com