Finian's Rainbow

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Photo: Carol Rosegg Review
The list of musicals that will simultaneously leave you thinking about the 2016 presidential election and humming its near-perfect score as you leave the theater is mighty small. In fact, only one comes to mind: Burton Lane, Fred Saidy and E.Y. Harburg’s glorious 1947 tuner “Finian’s Rainbow.” So we should be doubly thankful that the Irish Repertory Theatre has resurrected its charming 2004 chamber production (adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore) of the show to mark the opening of its renovated 22nd Street home.

Wisely, the Irish Rep has also convinced its 2004 leading lady, the wondrous Melissa Errico, to reprise her role as the feisty yet romantic Sharon McLonergan, who ends up far away from her native Ireland in the magical land of Missitucky USA alongside her delightfully devilish dad Finian (a truly marvelous Ken Jennings). He’s come to the aptly named Rainbow Valley -- where the white folk live happily side by side with black folk – to bury the pot of gold he’s stolen in Ireland in the hopes of securing riches and eternal joy for his daughter.

What the pair also find in Rainbow Valley is handsome guitar-playing farmer Woody Mahoney (a strong-voiced Ryan Silverman), who instantly falls for Sharon; his sister, Susan the Silent (the graceful Lyrica Woodruff); the bewildered leprechaun-turning-mortal Og (the incredibly delightful, fleet-footed Mark Evans); and the heavily bigoted Senator Billboard Rawkins (an effective Dewey Cadell), who ends up switching races after a quick quip from Sharon comes true.

Although Cadell hasn’t been outfitted with an orange wig, he might as well be named Donald Trump, especially when he talks about immigrants. The show’s book has been substantially cut, but its satire and political commentary remain intact. That said, I do think some of it’s all been laid on just a tad too thick. (Maybe the cast will ease up after November 8.)

Still, it’s the stunning score you’ll most take notice of here, from the wistful “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” (beautifully and poignantly performed by Errico) to the swoony duet “Old Devil Moon,” the razor-sharp “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich,” the comedic gospel-infused “The Begat” and the tongue-twisting “When I’m Not Near The Girl I Love.” Choreographer Barry McNabb uses the small stage well to allow some lovely dancing interludes (including a sweet solo for Woodruff), while the four-piece orchestra adds depth to Josh Clayton’s orchestrations.

To paraphrase a lyric of my favorite song from this classic show, the gorgeous “Look to the Rainbow,” this production is an elegant gift to bequeath to an audience.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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William Bellamy, Kimberly Doreen Burns, Dewey Caddell, Peyton Crim, Melissa Errico, Mark Evans, Matt Gibson, Angela Grovey, Ken Jennings, Ramone Owens, Kyle Taylor Parker, Ryan Silverman, Lyrica Woodruff

Open/Close Dates
Opening 10/26/2016
Closing 1/29/2017

Theatre Info
Irish Repetory Theatre
132 West 22nd St.
New York, NY 10011