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"Finian's Rainbow" Returns to Broadway at the St. James Theatre
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"Finian's Rainbow" Returns to Broadway at the St. James Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Finian’s Rainbow
(Finian’s Rainbow Website)

Book by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy
Music by Burton Lane
Lyrics by Yip Harburg

St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street

Jim Norton, Kate Baldwin, Cheyenne Jackson,
Guy Davis, Alina Faye, Brian Reddy,
David Schramm, Terri White, William Youmans
Chuck Cooper and Christopher Fitzgerald
And Ensemble

Directed and Choreographed by Warren Carlyle
Music Supervision and Vocal Arrangements by Rob Berman
Based on Presentation at New York City Center Encores!
Scenic Design: John lee Beatty
Costume Design: Toni-Leslie James
Lighting Design: Ken Billington
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer
Casting: Jay Binder/Nikole Vallins
Wig, Makeup, & Hair Design: Wendy Parson
Production Stage Manager: Tripp Phillips
Orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and Don Walker
Music Coordination by Seymour Red Press
General Management: Frankel Green Theatrical Mgmt.
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Press Representative: Richard Kornberg/Don Summa
Assoc. Choreographer: Parker Esse
Assoc. Producers: Andrew Hartman an Gail Lawrence
Executive Producer: Nicole Kastrinos

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 8, 2009

Finian’s Rainbow was one show I eagerly anticipated this season, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. With simple sets that transport the audience to a Missitucky, 1940’s tobacco farm in the American South, with a magical pot that springs forth a leprechaun, with love at first sight and songs you remember, and with a social conscience to boot, Finian’s Rainbow at the St. James Theatre brings joy and warmth on every level. You will leave the theatre humming iconic tunes, like “How Are Things in Glocca Morra”, “Old Devil Moon”, “Look To the Rainbow”, and the adorable, “Something Sort of Grandish”. The clear, resonant vocals of Sharon McLonergan (Kate Baldwin), Woody Mahoney (Cheyenne Jackson), Finian McLonergan (Jim Norton), and the leprechaun, Og (Christopher Fitzgerald), showcasing Burton Lane and Yip Harburg’s music and lyrics, give this Broadway show just what the audience wanted. We got a brilliant revival of familiar songs and story theme and an energized, impassioned cast, surrounded by low-frills sets and costumes.

Finian and his daughter Sharon arrive in Missitucky, US, from Glocca Morra, Ireland, and they immediately become entwined with the Missitucky hunk, Cheyenne Jackson, who falls head over heels for Sharon, with a bouncing, bubbly leprechaun, Og, who falls for all the girls all the time, and with the sharecroppers and Senator Rawkins (David Schramm) (a white Senator), who turns into Bill Rawkins (the black, kinder version of himself), during a struggle with the sharecroppers and a magical spell from the leprechaun. The plots merge and unfold in Disney-esque fashion, but this is a Broadway show, after all, and as long as the music and dance are swell, who could care. Woody’s sister, Susan Mahoney (Alina Faye), is a ballet dancer who lost her speech, and her tightly wound choreography, on this crowded stage, is commendably presented. Susan is soon wooed by Og, who turns out to be the most effervescent character on this busy stage. Christopher Fitzgerald, Og, who was Igor in Young Frankenstein, is obviously a trained acrobat with clownish gestures, and he’s certainly an artist to watch. His endearing solos, both sung and spoken, grabbed the viewer, scene after scene. Especially outstanding was Jim Norton, Finian, whose eyes actually misted for Ireland, whose posture revealed the whiskey within, and whose yearning for his daughter’s happiness was palpable.

Chuck Cooper, Bill Rawkins, who led “The Begat” with The Three Gospeleers, brought the house down with rip-roaring rhythms and dynamic harmonies. David Schramm, Senator Rawkins, the blustery, arrogant original, who transforms into Bill before our eyes, has charisma and persuasiveness in his layered role. Kate Baldwin, Sharon, is one of the finest vocalists in this season’s theatrical musicals, with professionally trained talent, adding nuance to each phrase. Each time she sang “How Are Things in Glocca Morra”, a pin could have been heard dropping, as the audience was transfixed. Cheyenne Jackson’s (Woody), vocals were less powerfully sung, but his stage presence and romantic attention to Sharon were touching. Brian Reddy, as the Sheriff, Terri White, as Dottie, and William Youmans, as Buzz Collins, rounded out the lead cast with confidence and charisma. The ensemble as sharecroppers (and more) had individual personalities and abundant humor. John Lee Beatty’s sets, as mentioned above, were probably re-cycled from the original City Center show, and I hope that if/when this production closes, they can resurface in another small theater, so this music can enchant audiences for years to come. In fact, in many ways, Finian’s Rainbow is much like The Fantasticks, a show that has run for decades. Kudos to Burton Lane, Yip Harburg, and Fred Saidy for this endearing Broadway icon, and kudos, too, to Warren Carlyle and Rob Berman for their detailed direction, lovely choreography, and merry musicality.

Jim Norton in
"Finian's Rainbow"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Paige Simunovich,
Christopher Fitzgerald, Christopher Borger
in "Finian's Rainbow"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Cast of "Finian's Rainbow"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Kate Baldwin, Cheyenne Jackson
in "Finian's Rainbow"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

James Stovall, Chuck Cooper,
Bernard Dotson, Devin Richards
in "Finian's Rainbow"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at