Originating on Broadway in 1947, Finian’s Rainbow is an odd, farcical musical that, while by no means offensive, inspires this kind of response: ”Huh? Really?” Mostly because of the oddity of the story, which focuses on Finian, an aging Irishman (Jim Norton), and Sharon, his adult daughter (Thoroughly Modern Millie‘s Kate Baldwin ), who travel from their homeland to the fictional American state of Missitucky. The old man carries a pot of gold — stolen from a leprechaun named Og (Christopher Fitzgerald), who follows them — that he intends to multiply by burying near Fort Knox. All this takes place in the still-divided Deep South, so themes concerning social class, race, and economics crop up — and a bigoted white senator is magically turned black. The show walks a bizarre line between fantasy and reality, which makes the pairing of such heavy themes with a fantastical atmosphere come off as madcap.
But despite the weaknesses of the original material, this revival is well cast and smartly performed. (The production, including its surprisingly spare set design, is virtually unchanged since its March run in New York City Center’s Encores! Series.) Broadway fave Cheyenne Jackson (Xanadu), as Sharon’s love interest Woody, is almost too big for the stage in his usual, effortless style. Baldwin is a gem and spectacularly shows off her velvety soprano, while Norton charms in a sweet, grandfatherly way. Fittingly, Fitzgerald brings beguiling panache (and much of the show’s comic relief) to the role of Og.
The music and dancing, too, are grand. You’re likely to leave the theater humming the signature tune ”How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” or finding delight in the flashy, turning-point ditty ”When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich.” But the real showstopper comes just before intermission, when Terri White’s Dottie, leading the show’s sharecropper chorus, belts out a soul-heavy version of the hard-driving ”Necessity.” With performances like White’s, it becomes rather easy to forget about Finian‘s narrative silliness. B-
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800.432.7250)