The good old-fashioned Irish wake is alive and well in New York City, revived in theatrical form by producer Joseph Corcoran, who is hoping Finnegan's Farewell will be as lively at the box office as his interactive productions of Tony n' Tina's Wedding and Late Nite Catechism.
Kevin Alexander's conceptual musical comedy script puts patrons and cast together at St. Luke's Church (308 W. 46th Street) as mourners with the Finnegan family. A funeral procession, complete with rolling casket and bagpipe players, then marches to the Edison Hotel (221 W. 46th Street) to a "farewell celebration" with traditional Irish food (corned beef and cabbage) and entertainment -- music (by The Dublineers), singing, keening and Irish step dancing. The premise -- with a nod to James Joyce -- is that Finnegan left instructions in his will for a raucous celebration at his wake.
The show was developed in May previews, but had its seeds in Atlantic City and in "a couple of country clubs," according to the producer. A small scale opening was held Aug. 4, but the show's official premiere will be Sept. 22.
Like Tony n' Tina's Wedding, which Corcoran also produces, the show uses St. Luke's and the Edison as the setting for interactive family events that are fictional, comic and spiked with improv. Specialty entertainment is by the Dubliners and the RiverKids Dance Troupe.
A cast of 28 performs Farewell 7 PM Wednesdays, in repertory with Tony n' Tina's Wedding and Late Nite Catechism (which respectively tweak Italian-Americans and Catholics). Beginning Oct. 2, Saturday matinees will be added at 2 PM. Mark Aldrich, Sharon Angela, Tommy Carroll, Norma Crawford, Darren Dooley, Elton Laron, Shawn McLean, Elizabeth Nagengast, Robert R. Oliver, Katherine O'Sullivan, Erin Pender, Tade Reen, Roger Rifkin, Bart Shatto and Christine Siracusa comprise the main cast, with Meghan Allen, Bridget Geerlings, Meaghan Geerlings, Shannon Gheerlings and Siobhan Geerlings offering support as "the RiverKids." Asked in May how Finnegan would differ from such entertainments as the regionally-popular Rafferty's Irish Wake, producer Corcoran told Playbill On-Line his idea is to mix the comedy and audience participation of Tony n' Tina with the dance and spirit of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.
For ($59) tickets and information on Finnegan's Farewell call (212) 279- 4200 or check out their website, http://www.finnegansfarewell.com.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz