Finian's Rainbow Materializes Again on Broadway

By Kenneth Jones
and Andrew Gans
October 29, 2009

Finian's Rainbow, the 1947 show-tune-packed musical about an Irishman and his daughter chasing the American dream and finding its underbelly opens Oct. 29 in a Broadway revival starring Tony Award winners Jim Norton and Chuck Cooper, plus Kate Baldwin, Tony nominee Christopher Fitzgerald, Cheyenne Jackson, Terri White and more.

The new production at the St. James Theatre is the first Broadway revival of the classic musical fantasy-satire since 1960, when a City Center Light Opera Company production played 12 performances at the 46th Street Theatre.

Finian's Rainbow has a book by Fred Saidy and E.Y. Harburg and songs by lyricist Harburg and composer Burton Lane. If the plot is packed with jaundiced observations about the American class system, capitalism and racism, it also boasts such now-classic songs as "Look to the Rainbow," "Old Devil Moon" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"

This production is directed and choreographed Warren Carlyle, drawing from Carlyle's well-reviewed Encores! concert revival in March. Since that time, the enhanced Broadway production picked up Cooper and David Schramm (playing dual roles); Tony nominee Fitzgerald as a hormonal leprechaun whose crock of gold has been swiped; and Arthur Perlman, who revised and adapted the libretto (already adapted for New York City Center Encores! by David Ives).

Finian's Rainbow previews began at the St. James on Oct. 8. The designs are fresh or expanded since Encores!, as are the dances and other elements.

Here's how Carlyle characterized the production in a statement prior to the Broadway launch: "This new Broadway production is a total re-imagining of every design element [of the Encores! run]. The entire creative team, including Tony Award winning designers John Lee Beatty, Ken Billington, and Scott Lehrer, has worked tirelessly to bring a fully realized production of Finian's Rainbow to Broadway. One major difference between the Encores! concert staging and this new Broadway show is that the full orchestra will now be placed in the pit, providing me with more opportunities to fully choreograph sequences and expand the world of Rainbow Valley. Unlike the Encores! concert series this production allows for the design of nearly two hundred costume pieces by acclaimed designer, Toni-Leslie James. We have also incorporated numerous moments of magic with the help of magic consultant, Matthew Holtzclaw. With all of these additions and enhancements come an opportunity for me to present audiences with a fully realized and completely magical evening in the theatre."

The cast is headed by Wonderful Town's Baldwin as Sharon McLonergan, Xanadu's Jackson as Woody Mahoney, The Seafarer Tony winner Norton as Finian McLonergan (who gets to sing a good chunk of a song, unlike past productions), Young Frankenstein Tony nominee Fitzgerald as the leprechaun Og and Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper (The Life) as Bill Rawkins, with Guy Davis (Sunny, playing a mean harmonica solo), Alina Faye (Susan Mahoney, a mute role in which she dances her conversation), Brian Reddy (Sheriff), David Schramm (Senator Rawkins), Terri White (Dottie, a sharecropper who sings "Necessity") and William Youmans (Buzz Collins).

The ensemble comprises Aaron Bantum, Tanya Birl, Christopher Borger, Meggie Cansler, Bernard Dotson, Leslie Donna Flesner, Sara Jean Ford, Taylor Frey, Lisa Gajda, Kearran Giovanni, Tim Hartman, Lauren Lim Jackson, Grasan Kingsberry, Kevin Ligon, Monica L. Patton, Joe Aaron Reid, Steve Schepis, Devin Richards, Rashidra Scott, Brian Sears, Paige Simunovich, James Stovall, Elisa van Duyne and Tyrick Wiltez Jones.

David Richenthal (Death of a Salesman, Long Day's Journey Into Night) is the lead producer.

The musical, according to production notes, "tells the story of the Irishman Finian McLonergan and his daughter Sharon who travel to a small Southern town in the mythical state of Missitucky with plans to bury a stolen pot of gold in the shadows of Fort Knox, in the mistaken belief it will grow and multiply. They have been followed from Ireland by the owner of the gold, a leprechaun, who shows up determined to recover his treasure."

This new production features scenic design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Ken Billington, sound design by Scott Lehrer, hair/wig/make-up design by Wendy Parson and music supervision and vocal arrangements by Rob Berman, who also conducts.

The original orchestrations are used here; they are by Robert Russell Bennett and Don Walker; the original dance music arrangements are by Trude Rittman. Additional orchestrations are by Larry Moore.

The score includes such tunes as "Look to the Rainbow," "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?," "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love (I Love the Girl I'm Near)," "The Begat," "Old Devil Moon" and "If This Isn't Love."

The original production of Finian's Rainbow opened at the 46th Street Theatre on Jan. 10, 1947, and played 725 performances. Michael Kidd won a Tony Award for Best Choreography. David Wayne won a Tony for playing the show's antsy leprechaun.

The Encores! run, starring Norton, Baldwin and Jackson, played City Center March 26-29.

The Broadway producers of Finian's Rainbow are David Richenthal, Jack Viertel, Alan D. Marks, Michael Speyer, Bernard Abrams, David M. Milch, Stephen Moore, Debbie Bisno/Myla Lerner, Jujamcyn Theaters, in association with Melly Garcia, Jamie DeRoy, Jon Bierman, Richard Driehaus, Kevin Spirtas, Jay Binder, StageVentures2009 Limited Partnership.

Tickets are $50-$120. There are also special post-opening Wednesday evening prices as low as $25. Tickets may be purchased by visiting or by phoning (212) 239-6200.

St. James Theatre is located at 246 West 44th Street.

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