The Broadway-bound new revival of Finian's Rainbow, the whimsical, satiric 1947 musical by Yip Harburg and Burton Lane, will play Cleveland's Palace Theatre Center Nov. 30-Dec. 12 following its run at Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse Oct. 12-Nov. 21.
Producer Rodger Hess hopes to bring the show to Broadway in early 2000. Along with it will come a treasure-chest musical score (by composer Lane and lyricist Harburg) that includes such hits as "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?," "Old Devil Moon," "If This Isn't Love" and "Look to the Rainbow."
As of June 29, however, no stars or creative team beyond director Lonny Price had been announced. Price, the Merrily We Roll Along and Rags actor whose directing career is on the rise, will stage the show, which has a revised book by Peter Stone (Titanic, 1776, the new Annie Get Your Gun).
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.
The original libretto by Harburg and Fred Saidy is about Irishman Finian and his daughter, Sharon, who come to Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, fleeing the leprechaun whose gold they've stolen. The valley includes a community of poor working folk and the show's hero, Woody, who falls for Sharon. The leprechaun, Og, in hot pursuit, becomes more and more mortal away from Ireland and falls for both Sharon and the local mute girl known as Susan the Silent. The 1947 libretto, which is considered well-meaning but, by today's standards, racially insensitive, is being reworked by Stone, who recently tweaked the original libretto of Annie Get Your Gun, also thought to be racially outdated in its references to Native Americans.
For a May reading in New York City, Price directed a company that was to include veteran Robert Morse (the original How to Succeed...) as Finian, but Morse had a scheduling conflict and did not appear. He is no longer attached to Finian's Rainbow.
Also in the reading, Patrick Wilson (The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, Bright Lights Big City) played hero Woody (singing "Old Devil Moon") and Austin Pendleton (Fiddler on the Roof) played the racist politician. Wilson is now headed to Minnesota to appear in the new musical version of Romeo and Juliet and is not expected to be the hero Finian's.
The show is noted for its socially-aware sentiments 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," "This Time of the Year," "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich" and "The Begat."
Stone said he discussed the project with Lane before the composer's Jan. 5, 1997 death. Stone's original work includes the books to 1776, The Will Rogers Follies, Woman of the Year and Titanic, among other shows.
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 Fred Astaire as Finian, Petula Clark as his daughter, Sharon, and Tommy Steele as Og.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson