Finian's Rainbow Wanes in Cleveland, Waits for Broadway

News   Finian's Rainbow Wanes in Cleveland, Waits for Broadway The new revival of Finian's Rainbow, which finished its pre Broadway run in Cleveland Dec. 12, is now "doing the theatre dance," which is showspeak for waiting for an available theatre, director Lonny Price told Playbill On-Line.

The new revival of Finian's Rainbow, which finished its pre Broadway run in Cleveland Dec. 12, is now "doing the theatre dance," which is showspeak for waiting for an available theatre, director Lonny Price told Playbill On-Line.

Producer Rodger Hess and company are hoping an appropriate house opens before the end of April, which is the cutoff date for Tony Award nominations. The musicals Martin Guerre and Jane Eyre are also hoping for shelter on Broadway in the first four months of 2000.

"We largely got terrific reviews," said Price, who added that the Miami and Cleveland engagements of the musical comedy fantasy helped the creative team (including new book writer Peter Stone) to assess changes made to the original book and look ahead to more refining.

A rave in The Miami Herald bolstered confidence for the plan to bring back a 1947 show long considered awkwardly shaped but full of gorgeous tunes, by E.Y. Yip Harburg and Burton Lane.

"We will do another restructuring when we go back into rehearsal," Price said. In the meantime, Brian Murray, who played the revival's Finian, will reprise his Noises Off Broadway role, Lloyd Dallas, in Paper Mill Playhouse's Jan. 5-Feb. 13, 2000, revival of the Michael Frayn farce. The gig leaves him available for a possible post-February Finian run.

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The old devil moon rose over Cleveland Nov. 30-Dec. 12 (Palace Theatre) and over Miami Oct. 12-Nov. 21 (Coconut Grove Playhouse).

The tuner follows an Irishman and his daughter who flee to America with a stolen crock of gold, swiped from a leprechaun. They seek riches in the USA, but find racism, romance and rousing tunes such as "Old Devil Moon" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"

The cast of the musical, which is part impish fantasy and part social satire, includes Murray as Finian, 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 and Don Stephenson as Buzz Collins and Terri White as the big-voiced singer who croons the have-nots' lament, "Necessity."

Director Price is artistic director of Musical Theatre Works and, as an actor, a veteran of musicals such as Merrily We Roll Along and Rags.

Marguerite Derricks, who created the swinging dances for "Austin Powers," choreographs.

Despite the legit presence of British Murray, known for Shakespeare and more, the show's major selling point is now the classic, hit-packed score, which includes "Old Devil Moon," "Look to the Rainbow," "If This Isn't Love" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"

Designers for Finian's Rainbow are Loren Sherman (scenic), Paul Tazewell (costumes) and Phil Monat (lighting).

The company includes Joseph Webster, Cyrus Akeem Brooks, Kate Baldwin, Angela Brydon, Dioni Michelle Collins, Kim Craven, Christopher F. Davis, Stephanie Fittro, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Derric Harris, Scott Hislop, Denis Jones, Trent Armand Kendall, Vicky Lambert, Rosa Janae Lee, James Ludwig, Brandi Chavonne Massey, Wes Pope and Eric Riley.

African-American actor Ossie Davis is the script's cultural adviser. The multicultural 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), who reworked potentially offensive Native American references in the current Annie Get Your Gun, told Playbill On-Line he's making Finian's edgier and more politically sharp. Over the years, he said, the references to racism had grown quaint.

Director Price told Playbill On-Line that the changes made have to do with song order, clarification of scenes and sharpening the political edge.

The score remains intact, with no deletions or additions, Price said, days before the first preview in Miami.

"When I first read it, as much as there were so many wonderful things in it, the dramaturgy was very bizarre," Price said. "The classic example is [the opening number] "This Time of the Year." It's this song with people chanting, "Woody's coming, Woody's coming" [to save the day] and at the end of the number, they all run off stage, they do another scene, and then they bring him on. It was like doing the 'Hello, Dolly!' number and she doesn't come down the stairs!

"There was a lot of dramaturgical work that we did. The songs are in a different order now, 'Necessity' has a completely new concept, which I think strengthens not only the number, but the whole show. But this great score felt a lot like stage weights because the events of the scenes were before or after the numbers. The numbers weren't very well motivated. We've done an awful lot of work to at least put the score in an order where when the songs come, they are plugged in in such a profound way that they're as joyful as they are on the record, which I didn't feel when I saw other productions of it."

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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.

The musical mixes Irish lyricism, African-American blues and Broadway show tunes in a story about an Irishman, his daughter and a leprechaun who travel to mythical "Missitucky" and find hopeful sharecroppers, romance and racism.

The socialist sentiments in Harburg's book and lyrics burble up in "Necessity," a lament about not having enough money: "My feet want to dance in the sun/My head wants to rest in the shade/The Lord says, 'Go out and have fun,'/But the landlord says, 'Your rent ain't paid.'"