Saturday, November 19, 2016

Off-Broadway Review—Classic Musical “Finian’s Rainbow” Returns

Finian’s Rainbow
Music by Burton Lane; book by E.Y. Harburg & Fred Saidy; lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Adapted & directed by Charlotte Moore
Performances through December 31, 2016
Irish Rep, 132 West 22nd Street, New York, NY

Ryan Silverman and Melisa Errico in Finian's Rainbow (photo: Carol Rosegg)
The Irish Rep’s revival of the 1947 musical, Finian’s Rainbow, is stripped-down musically (a four-piece ensemble led by piano and harp), but such a small-forces staging allows this charming show—with a smart, sassy book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, clever lyrics by Harburg and sweetly beguiling music by Burton Lane—to inhabit such a tiny space so engagingly.

The story, a messy mix of the magical and mundane, has progressive racial attitudes for its day—and for our day too, it now appears. Irish immigrant Finian (the delightful Ken Jennings) and his marriageable daughter Sharon (the delightfully plucky Melissa Errico) 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 (a nice turn by Ryan Silverman), leprechaun Og (a too campy Mark Evans) slowly turns human while searching for the lost gold, and racist Senator Rawkins (an amusingly blustery Dewey Caddell) gets his comeuppance when he’s transformed into a black man.

Combining standard ethnic jokes with standard romantic comedy, the show bubbles along nicely, spurred on by wonderful Lane-Harburg songs like “Old Devil Moon” and “Look to the Rainbow,” and spirited dance numbers choreographed by Barry McNabb, particularly “Dance of the Golden Crock,” performed with gusto by young dancer Lyrica Woodruff.

The whole shebang is wrapped up with a reprise of one of the score’s most soaring melodies, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” Director Charlotte Moore obviously loves Finian, and it shows: even in her scaled-down version, it’s an unalloyed pleasure.

No comments: