Finian’s Rainbow

Two fantasy musicals were among the top hits of the 1946-47 Broadway season, "Finian's Rainbow" and "Brigadoon." The latter has become a classic, the former, despite its often charming score, has not.

With:
Cast: Robert Creighton (Og), Erin Dilly (Sharon McLonergan), James Judy (Finian McLonergan), David M. Lutken (Woody Mahoney), Ron Wisniski (Sen. Billboard Rawkins), Jennifer Paulson Lee (Susan Mahoney), Jasper R. McGruder (Sunny), Bill Kocis (Buzz Collins), Kevin McClarnon (Sheriff); Andre Ward, J. Cameron Barnett, Tim Johnson, Inga Ballard, Dottie Earle-DeLuca, Steve Friday, Maggie Hollinbeck, Jamal James, Blair Kauffman, Christopher Kauffmann, Kyra Little, Douglas Manes, Mathew Jason Picheny, Becky Rosenbluth, Patrick Wetzel.

Two fantasy musicals were among the top hits of the 1946-47 Broadway season, “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Brigadoon.” The latter has become a classic, the former, despite its often charming score, has not. Fifty years after the show’s Broadway opening, “Finian’s Rainbow’s” book remains an albatross, clunky and tiresome, a fact that this cluttered production does not overcome.

Unsubtly directed by Gabriel Barre, the cast goes beyond caricature and kills most of what laughs the show may still have. Among those who push hardest are James Judy as a too-young Finian, Ron Wisniski as bigoted Southern Sen. Rawkins, Bill Kocis as Buzz, one of the senator’s henchmen, and Kevin McClarnon as the sheriff. Almost by default, David M. Lutken’s perfectly ordinary Woody Mahoney, the male romantic lead, shines forth.

Robert Creighton doesn’t have a chance at making the half-leprechaun, half-human Og palatable, given the unattractive costume, makeup and wig he’s assigned to wear, nor is Erin Dilly’s sweetly sung Sharon assisted by a stiff wig. And as for the big “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich” production number, in which the cast is supposed to be wearing finery, Pamela Scofield’s costumes look more rummage-sale than fine.

Jennifer Paulson Lee’s leaping choreography is vigorously danced though limited in its impact, adding to the sense that director Barre is afraid of moments of repose.

The vocalizing is at its best when it’s a group effort, such as in “Necessity ,” and the small orchestra benefits from the addition of instrument-playing cast members onstage. Wisely, the musical’s original flat-footed overture has been cut, but Creighton does little with Og’s enchanting waltz, “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love.”

With a book that’s an almost unplayable mixture of dated left-wing ideology and Irish-American whimsy, “Finian’s Rainbow” probably isn’t worth reviving, and certainly not in this manner.

Finian's Rainbow

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Conn.; 398 seats; $36 top

Production: A Goodspeed Opera House presentation of a musical in two acts with music by Burton Lane, book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, and lyrics by Harburg. Directed by Gabriel Barre.

Creative: Choreography, Jennifer Paulson Lee; musical direction, Michael O'Flaherty; set, James M. Youmans; costumes, Pamela Scofield; lighting, Phil Monat; orchestrations, Andrew Wilder; stage manager, Donna Cooper Hilton. Goodspeed executive director, Michael P. Price. Opened, reviewed April 25, 1997. Running time: 2 HOURS, 37 MIN.

Cast: Cast: Robert Creighton (Og), Erin Dilly (Sharon McLonergan), James Judy (Finian McLonergan), David M. Lutken (Woody Mahoney), Ron Wisniski (Sen. Billboard Rawkins), Jennifer Paulson Lee (Susan Mahoney), Jasper R. McGruder (Sunny), Bill Kocis (Buzz Collins), Kevin McClarnon (Sheriff); Andre Ward, J. Cameron Barnett, Tim Johnson, Inga Ballard, Dottie Earle-DeLuca, Steve Friday, Maggie Hollinbeck, Jamal James, Blair Kauffman, Christopher Kauffmann, Kyra Little, Douglas Manes, Mathew Jason Picheny, Becky Rosenbluth, Patrick Wetzel.

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