Fiorello! Gets a Second Vote of Confidence from Encores! in New Concert Revival

By Jack Viertel
25 Jan 2013

Fiorello LaGuardia
courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York
Adler and Ross came first, with The Pajama Game, then Bob Merrill, with New Girl in Town. In 1959, Prince and Abbott handed the songwriting chores for their new musical about New York's beloved Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia to a young team that had previously suffered a single Broadway flop, Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics). It was a fortuitous choice.

"They auditioned three sets of songwriters for the job," Harnick recalled recently, "and we got it. Each of the teams wrote four songs, and two of the songs we wrote stayed in the show — 'Unfair' and 'Til Tomorrow.' Originally, George Abbott hadn't wanted to do a political musical, but when Hal Prince explained that LaGuardia had two romances, he changed his mind.

"I was very surprised by Abbott — I came into the process thinking he was the anything-for-a-laugh master of farce, but he was like Stanislavsky in a way — he only wanted what was honest. And as much as I learned about Abbott through the process, I actually didn't know much about LaGuardia either when we went to work on it. But as I worked, I began to idolize him. And that's what I hope shows through all of it. He was a hero."