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.