If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
“FINIAN’S RAINBOW” ON STAGE IN IVORYTON
Crafty old Finian McLonergan and his daughter, Sharon, have travelled from their native Ireland to the fictional American state of Missitucky. Finian has “borrowed” a pot of gold from his homeland with plans to bury it near Fort Knox where he’s convinced it will help him prosper. Missitucky is no paradise. In the racially mixed countryside there is deep-seated prejudice mostly in the form of the corrupt Senator Billboard Rawkins who isn’t thrilled to welcome new immigrants. In the meantime love blooms between Sharon and local good guy, Woody, while another visitor from Ireland, the Leprechaun Og, arrives determined to reclaim that pot of gold.
“Finian’s Rainbow”, currently in a modest revival at the Ivoryton Playhouse, is a fanciful musical with more on its mind than just sheer whimsy. The Burton Lane/E.Y. Harburg musical (with book by Mr. Harburg and Fred Saidy) has an ingratiating score (Look to the Rainbow, How Are Things In Glocca Morra?, Old Devil Moon) and enough heart, romance and feel-good philosophy to cheer even the most cynical curmudgeon. It also has some timely insights about bigotry which, sadly, haven’t dated at all since the musical’s Broadway premiere in 1947.
The Ivoryton Playhouse, presently celebrating its 99th season, is a professional summer stock theatre that has a faithful following. At Ivoryton productions always seem a little more scaled down, more relaxed and less flamboyant. Under the direction of Julia Kelly this “Finian’s Rainbow” is a serviceable effort that should please its devoted patrons.
Ivoryton favorite R. Bruce Connelly is a natural for the role of Finian. Mr. Connelly knows how to work an audience and his Finian is blessed with equal parts blarney and showmanship. If the rest of the company never really comes up to his level of performance, it’s not for lack of trying. In fact most of the cast seems to be trying very hard and it shows.
Kathleen Mulready is a lovely Sharon and John Rochette a sturdy Woody but one wishes there was more heat generated in their romantic duet, If This Isn’t Love. It’s adequately sung but the thrill of new romance and passion is missing in the performances. Michael Nathanson is a genuine scene-stealer as Og and Larry Lewis, as Senator Rawkins, makes a character change midway through the musical thoroughly believable. The small ensemble at Ivoryton is pleasant enough but they lack the pizzazz and energy to allow a knock-out number like On That Great Come and Get It Day to really soar.
The pedestrian scenic design by Tony Andrea consists of platforms and muslin in various shades of green and Tate Burmeister’s shadowy lighting doesn’t distinguish itself until a nice touch at the end when the semblance of a rainbow is suggested. Pam Puente’s costumes do, however, strike the right chord throughout.
No, not a definitive production of this charming musical but for a late-summer offering in an unpretentious package, it will probably suffice. And there is always that wonderful score to savor even under lesser conditions.
“Finian’s Rainbow” continues at the Ivoryton Playhouse through September 5. For further information and ticket reservations call 860.767.7318 or visit: www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.