Broadway belter Terri White, memorable for singing "Thank God I'm Old" as Joice Heth in the original cast of Barnum, will sing Yip Harburg and Burton Lane's "Necessity" in the upcoming revival of Finian's Rainbow.
White was understudy for both Nell Carter and Armelia McQueen in Broadway's Ain't Misbehavin' before she landed the plum vocal solo in Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart's Barnum, playing the supposed nanny of George Washington.
She won an OBIE Award playing Henry in The Club, directed by Tommy Tune, and went on to direct the play in Cleveland, Boston and Richmond.
White has always had a home working in Greenwich Village piano bars.
"Necessity," like Barnum's "Thank God I'm Old," is another major solo spot for White. 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.'"
Among actresses who have sung the role of Honey-Lou is the folk singer Odetta.
The revival of the 1947 musical will be directed by Lonny Price. New book material, intended to sharpen the edge of the script's references to race and politics, is by Peter Stone.
Designers for Finian's Rainbow will be Loren Sherman (scenic), Paul Tazewell (costumes) and Phil Monat (lighting).
Monat has lighted Off-Broadway's Three Tall Women and Camping With Henry and Tom, Tazewell designed the Public Theater's Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk and On the Town and Sherman designed Off-Broadway's Assassins, Baby With the Bathwater and Broadway's Shogun: The Musical, among many others.
Producer Rodger Hess is eyeing spring 2000 for a Broadway opening for Finian's Rainbow, but before that it plays Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse Oct. 12-Nov. 21 and Cleveland's Palace Theatre Center Nov. 30 Dec. 12.
The cast of the musical, which is part impish fantasy and part social satire, includes Brian 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. Marguerite Derricks, who created the swinging dances for "Austin Powers," will choreograph.
The show's major selling point is now the classic, hit-packed score, which includes "Ol' Devil Moon," "Look to the Rainbow," "If This Isn't Love" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"
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. 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.
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