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Paulanne Simmons

“Finian’s Rainbow”: A Treasure at Irish Rep

Finian’s Rainbow
Directed by Charlotte Moore
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22 Street
From Oct. 26, 2016
Wed. 3pm & 8pm, Thurs. 7pm, Fri. 8pm, Sat. 3pm & 8pm, Sun. 3pm. No performance Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day
Tickets: $70-$50, www.irishrep.org
Extended through Dec. 31, 2016
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 12, 2016

If the state of the union makes you think you’d like to throw yourself out the window. hold on a minute. The Irish rep’s revival of “Finian’s Rainbow” may not solve all your problems or the problems of the nation, but it will give you a much needed respite, a respite filled with music and dance and a message we very much need today.

When E.Y. Harburg (book and lyrics), Fred Saidy (book) and Burton Lane (music) created the musical in 1947, Jim Crow reigned in the South and whites and blacks could not perform onstage together in many parts of the country. So the musical’s anti-racist message might not have been entirely welcome. Today we like to think we’ve advanced to a place where ‘Finian’s Rainbow” is a whimsical reminder of how we used to be.


Ken Jennings and Melissa Errico in FINIAN'S RAINBOW at Irish Rep. Photo by Carol Rosegg

This revival, adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore, features the enchanting Melissa Errico as Sharon, the young lady who comes to America with her elderly Irish father Finian (Ken Jennings), and Ryan Silverman as the handsome Woody, union leader of the Missitucky sharecroppers. The two sing some great songs (“Old Devil Moon,” “If This Isn’t Love”) and are soon engaged, with a little help from the very persuasive Finian.

Because the story is part fairytale, Woody has a mute sister, Susan the Silent (the very graceful Lyrica Woodruff) who communicates through dance, and Finian has a pot of gold he stole from Og (Mark Evans) a leprechaun who will turn mortal if he doesn’t get it back. What’s more, since Finian has buried the pot of gold, it has the power to grant whoever stands over it three wishes.

But of course Finian’s Rainbow is not all fairytale. So Harburg and Saidy also give us a
racist senator Billboard Rawkins (Dewey Caddell), his sidekick Buzz Collins (Matt Gibson) and the local sheriff (Peyton Crim), who conspire to get the sharecroppers’ land. And he gives the ensemble ironic and melodious anti-capitalist songs: “That Great Come-and-Get It Day,” “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich,” “The Begat,” and “Necessity,” all of which are faultlessly executed by the terrific ensemble, with special kudos to Angela Grovey on “Necessity.”

Moore has kept the musical on a scale that is fitting for the Irish Rep’s new but still intimate space. She’s put the musicians onstage where the actors can occasionally have a bit of fun with them. And she lets the magic sparkle.

It takes a lot of magic to teach Rawkins his lesson, but in the end the world is set to rights and everyone can once more “Look to the Rainbow.”



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