- Chief New York Theatre Critic
The 2016 Presidential Election has been perhaps the most contentious in modern history. Erupting from the three debates – as well as prior to the nominations – there has been a disturbing barrage of bigotry, xenophobia, sexism, and racism. Economic disparity has been used to woo voters without providing them any concrete paths to a better future. For these reasons, “Finian’s Rainbow” is a relevant and “groundbreaking” as it was in 1947 when it opened on Broadway on January 10 at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rogers).
Finian’s (Ken Jennings) trip to America with his daughter Sharon (Melissa Errico) and the pot of gold stolen from Og the leprechaun (Mark Evans) is a fitting trope for the national and global quest for a better life, a job, health benefits, and other aspects of the “dream” of success. Although the pot of gold does not multiply when buried in American soil (“the roads are paved with gold,” remember?), Finian does find a loving companion for his daughter and feels comfortable leaving Sharon in Woody’s (Ryan Silverman) care before he departs leaving them and the eclectic residents of Missitucky with a rainbow of hope for the future.
The Burton Lane’s music is sumptuous and is the star of this Irish Rep production. The book has been shortened considerably allowing the songs to take center stage throughout. Melissa Errico (Sharon) brings a heartfelt interpretation to “How Are Things in Glocca Mora” and, with Woody, Og, and the Ensemble, delivers “Old Devil Moon,” “If This Isn’t Love,” and “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich” with an authentic charm. The ensemble cast is outstanding and supports the principal actors with sheer perfection.
Despite the overall stellar performances, this production of “Finian’s Rainbow” falls flat and it is not easy to determine why; undoubtedly, the lack of energy has multiple mitigating circumstances. The set is uninspiring and pedestrian and seems like something one would find in a low-budget community production. Walls filled with musical notes and an abundance of plastic flowers just do not seem to work. The costumes are also uninspiring and often ill-fitting. And there is nothing original in the lighting or the choreography. Perhaps this matrix of lackluster creative team support affected the entire performance?
Whether it is possible for rich and poor, citizen and immigrant, and all people of all colors to live in harmony as they “Look to the Rainbow” is uncertain. Perhaps sometime after this upcoming election, perhaps further in the future. At least “Finian’s Rainbow” reminds of that dream and gives us the opportunity to wish it to be true. Who knows, there might even be a “Great Come and Get It Day!”
The cast of “Finian’s Rainbow” features 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, and Lyrica Woodruff.
“Finian’s Rainbow” is directed by Charlotte Moore and choreographed by Barry McNabb and features scenic design by James Morgan, costume design by David Toser, and lighting design by Mary Jo Dondlinger. John Bell serves as music supervisor, with Stephen Gabis as dialect coach. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.
All performances for “Finian’s Rainbow” are at Irish Rep Theatre on the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage (132 West 22nd Street) on the following schedule: Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Exceptions: there will be an additional performance on Tuesday, November 22 at 7:00 p.m. There will be no performance on Thursday, November 24 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets to “Finian’s Rainbow” range from $50.00-$70.00 and are on sale now through Irish Rep’s box office by calling 212-727-2737, or online at www.irishrep.org. Running time is 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.
Photo: The cast of "Finian's Rainbow." Credit: Carol Rosegg.