Without a House, Finian's Rainbow Will Shine in Fall 2000, Not Spring

News   Without a House, Finian's Rainbow Will Shine in Fall 2000, Not Spring Finian's Rainbow will not sparkle on Broadway this season, producer Rodger Hess told Playbill On-Line, but he expects his revival of the musical comedy fantasy to begin in fall 2000.

Finian's Rainbow will not sparkle on Broadway this season, producer Rodger Hess told Playbill On-Line, but he expects his revival of the musical comedy fantasy to begin in fall 2000.

Hess told Playbill On-Line Jan. 7 that the planned April opening was thwarted by a housing shortage on Broadway: All suitable theatres are booked prior to the late-April cutoff date for Tony Award nominations.

"I'm disappointed we're not coming," he said.

But even if something opened up in the next few months, Hess suggested, there are rehearsals and reconsiderations to be made in the staging and he believes "shows should come in when they are ready" rather than be rushed for a Tony deadline.

The delay may be in Finian's favor: Kiss Me, Kate and The Music Man are expected to be hot competitors in the category of a Best Revival (Musical) Tony this season. Hess said he expects a new scenic design or designer for Finian's Rainbow in the fall.

With a new book by Peter Stone and a classic score by composer Burton Lane and lyricist E.Y. Harburg, the new staging was presented in a Miami and Cleveland tryout in fall 1999, directed by Lonny Price. Brian Murray starred as Finian.

Because of the Broadway jam up and delay, some recasting may happen if tryout cast members get other gigs in the meantime.

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"We largely got terrific reviews," Price previously told Playbill On-Line. The Coconut Grove Playhouse (Miami) and Palace Theatre (Cleveland) engagements of the musical comedy helped the creative team assess changes made to the original book and determine 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: "Old Devil Moon," "Look to the Rainbow," "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"

"We will do another restructuring when we go back into rehearsal," Price said.

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The old devil moon rose over Cleveland Nov. 30-Dec. 12 and over Miami Oct. 12-Nov. 21.

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.

The cast of the musical, which is part impish fantasy and part social satire, included 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," choreographed.

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

The company included 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.'"

-- By Kenneth Jones