Murray will play Irishman Finian, who has come to America with a pot of gold stolen from a leprechaun. It was not a large singing role in the original, but Murray will likely croon "Look to the Rainbow."
In mythical Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, father and daughter encounter sharecroppers, a racist senator, a hero named Woody --- and the leprechaun, who has followed them.
Director Lonny Price's "revisal" of the 1947 musical, with an altered libretto by Peter Stone that smooths out the original script, plays Miami and Cleveland before opening in New York sometime in spring 2000. Rodger Hess is producer.
The cast of the musical, which is part impish fantasy and part social satire, includes Denis O'Hare as Og the Leprechaun, Austin Pendleton as Senator Rawkins, Kate Jennings Grant as Sharon, Tina Ou as Susan the Silent and J. Robert Spencer as Woody. Although Murray is known to theatre audiences, he is not a conventional star draw for the musical theatre box office. The show's selling point is now the classic, hit-packed score, which includes "Ol' Devil Moon," "Look to the Rainbow," "If This Isn't Love" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"
No designers have been announced.
The staging will play Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse Oct. 12-Nov. 21 and Cleveland's Palace Theatre Center Nov. 30-Dec. 12.
O'Hare made a solid supporting-actor splash as Ernst Ludwig in the new Broadway revival of Cabaret and Pendleton sang "Miracle of Miracles" in the original Broadway company of Fiddler on the Roof. Both appeared in the May 1999 workshop-reading of Finian's Rainbow, playing Og the Leprechaun and racist Senator Rawkins, respectively.
Robert Morse was hoped to perform in the workshop and reading, but Jim Norton, from Broadway's Irish-kissed The Weir, appeared instead.
Ou appeared in Broadway's Once Upon a Mattress and Rent, and is expected to play the dancing, non-singing role of Susan the Silent, a mute who is transformed during the action of the musical.
Grant, who will be Finian's daughter, toured in the Stephanie Powers version of Applause, as Eve Harrington, and attended Juilliard. She was Quincy Quince in Broadway's An American Daughter.
J. Robert Spencer appeared in Side Show on Broadway, in a number of workshops and readings, and in a national tour of Cats.
Producer Hess plans to bring the show to Broadway in early 2000. Marguerite Derricks, who created the swinging dances for "Austin Powers," will choreograph.
Director Price is better known as an actor, from Broadway's Merrily We Roll Along and Rags.
African-American actor Ossie Davis is the script's cultural adviser. The multi-cultural musical prominently features a leprechaun whose crock of gold is wished upon to turn a racist senator into a black man. Stone (1776, Woman of the Year, Titanic) similarly reworked potentially offensive Native American references in the current Annie Get Your Gun revival.
The original libretto is by Harburg and Fred Saidy.
Finian's Rainbow is noted for its socially-aware sentiments -- it's a satire of American enterprise, consumerism and social structure wrapped in show tunes -- and for its freewheeling, playful lyrics by Harburg, a master of creating a new language for a fantastical world (as he did in "The Wizard of Oz."). The score also includes "Necessity," "Something Sort of Grandish," "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love," "That Great Come and Get It Day," "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich" and "The Begat."
Price's credits (as a director) include revivals of The Rothschilds and Juno and the "Encores!" concert revival of Pal Joey. He also staged the Off-Broadway comedy, Visiting Mr. Green.
Finian's Rainbow originally opened on Broadway on Jan. 10, 1947 and ran for 725 performances. It took two Tony Awards (for choreographer Michael Kidd and supporting actor David Wayne). The cast included Ella Logan and Anita Alvarez. A 1968 film version, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starred Astaire as Finian, Petula Clark as his daughter, Sharon, and Tommy Steele as Og.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson