What do you get when you mix a bit of Irish blarney, a shirt chasing leprechaun, a white racist Senator from Washington who magically turns black enabling him to sing Gospel and to see the errors of his ways, a mute country girl who dances her dialogue, some wonderfully witty lyrics by Yip Harburg with unforgettable melodies by Burton Lane, with two romantic leads that sweep you into their fantasy world of love, financial crisis, and happily ever after, and some inventive direction and choreography by Warren Carlyle?
The answer is the enchanting and delightful “Finian’s Rainbow” that has just opened at the St. James Theatre. This revival is pure gold.
Finian McLonergan (A perfect Jim Norton with eyes a twinkling) has immigrated to the fictional Missitucky from Ireland along with his beautiful daughter Sharon (a sparkling Kate Baldwin) and a pot of gold that he has “borrowed” from Og (a whimsical Christopher Fitzgerald) so that he can bury it near Fort Knox (he’s distrustful of bankers!) so that it will grow and they will prosper. The leprechaun Og has followed them to fetch back his booty as he is fast becoming human, much to his dismay.
Woody Mahoney (Cheyenne Jackson of the mega watt smile and lilting voice) is trying to save Rainbow Valley and its tobacco business from those that would foreclose on the properties of the sharecroppers who are mostly black folk.
Into this most original 1947 concoction of a book brewed up by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy, (nicely updated by Arthur Perlman) add some still timely political, financial and racial satire that veers off in a few too may directions (albeit always entertaining directions) and you come up with some additional spun gold enacted on the appropriately stylized set of John Lee Beatty.
Then there are the songs. What rapturous melodies radiantly sung by all. The rousing ode to buying on credit “That Great ‘Come-and-Get-It’ Day”. The very amusing “When the Idle poor, Become the Idle Rich”. The show stopping “Necessity” sung by Terri White. The romantic duet, “Old Devil Moon” by Cheyenne Jackson and Kate Baldwin will melt even the most cynical of hearts. And Og has a devilishly fine time with “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love”. This is musical theatre at its best.
The costume design by Toni-Leslie James is just as witty as the lyrics, especially in her Mr. Shears and Mr. Robust outfits that have them looking like the man from Monopoly – mustache, monocle and all.
They say that at the end of the rainbow is a pot of gold. That is not true. It is at the St. James Theatre. Go see “Finian’s Rainbow” and bask in the glow of this wonderful production. It’s magical. How are things in Glocca Morra? They are absolutely terrific.