The list of performers looking to the rainbow this fall, in the Broadway bound revival of Finian's Rainbow, is expected to include 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.
The reworked revival of the 1947 musical fantasy, with a new book by Peter Stone and a classic score by Yip Harburg and Burton Lane, begins rehearsals in late August toward fall dates in Miami and Cleveland, prior to a 2000 Broadway opening.
The role of Finian, the Irishman who flees to America with a leprechaun's crock of gold -- with imp in hot pursuit -- has not been cast. There was a hope that Robert Morse might perform in the May 1999 workshop and reading, but Jim Norton, from Broadway's Irish-kissed The Weir, appeared in that reading when Morse became unavailable.
Minus a marquee star the caliber of a Morse or the late Fred Astaire (who played the title role in the film version), the new revival will fly on the wings of the hit-packed score, which includes "Ol' Devil Moon," "Look to the Rainbow," "If This Isn't Love" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"
The staging, under the direction of Lonny Price, 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.
Contracts and offers are being finalized this month.
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.
Rodger Hess is producing the Broadway-bound new revival of Finian's Rainbow, the whimsical, satiric 1947 musical by Yip Harburg and Burton Lane. A new book has been fashioned Peter Stone (1776 and the new Annie Get Your Gun revival). 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.
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 is considered well-meaning but, by today's standards, racially insensitive, this the reworking by Stone. He also tweaked the original libretto of Annie Get Your Gun, also thought to be racially outdated in its references to Native Americans.
For a May 1999 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 was Patrick Wilson (The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, Bright Lights Big City) played hero Woody (singing "Old Devil Moon").
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, according to his agent.
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."
Peter Stonne 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 Astaire as Finian, Petula Clark as his daughter, Sharon, and Tommy Steele as Og.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson