By Patrick Christiano
Directed by Warren Carlyle the sparkling revival of the vintage musical Finian’s Rainbow, a classic from the Golden Age of Broadway and the first to be mounted in nearly 50 years, is a charming old fashioned delight that was considered risky back in 1947, the year it debuted. The lovely score by Burton Lane is sprinkled with well known standards like “Old Devil Moon,” “Look to the Rainbow,” “How are Things in Gloccca Morra,” When I’m Not with the Girl I Love,” and “If This Isn’t Love,” beautifully sung by a splendid cast and backed by a 24 piece orchestra. Yip Harburg is the clever lyricist and he has concocted a uniquely silly plot filled with satirically funny social comments. Inane and dated maybe, but ultimately Rainbow is witty and wise delivering the message in a candy coated package.
The show was the first Broadway musical to feature an integrated cast and to deal with racial issues, but Finian’s Rainbow is probably best known because of the 1968 film with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark, not the original or the 1960 revival. Now the time is ripe and the musical feels just right for the entire family.
Set in the Deep South in the imaginary Missitucky, the story follows Finian (the incomparable Jim Norton), an Irish dreamer and his spirited daughter Sharon (a perfect Kate Baldwin), who have run off with a leprechaun’s magical pot of gold. However in their newly adopted land, complications arise and Sharon falls in love with Woody (Cheyenne Jackson), a local hunk, while the leprechaun Og (a stand-out Christopher Fitzgerald) is in hot pursuit. The plot features a bigoted Senator Rawkins (a funny David Schramm), who is suddenly turned black and gets soul. Chuck Cooper is a riot as the cartoonish black Rawkins and the moment he discovers he is no longer white is hysterical. In addition there are also Woody’s mute sister ( a fine Alina Faye), who communicates only in dance and the marvelous Terri White as Dotty, who is a highlight of the evening singing a rousing “Necessity.”
Director/Choreographer Warren Carlyle, who staged the critically acclaimed City Center Encores’ recent production, has magically transformed this old chestnut into a sunny pot of gold with loving care. His bright and breezy staging boasts a cast of Broadway veterans, who weave a witty musical spell that is simply sublime despite the oddball plot. The real find here, however may be Kate Baldwin. Her pure soprano coasts along the melodies with effortless ease.
Finian’s Rainbow is now playing on Broadway at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. Tickets are available from telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200