Off-Broadway Review: “Finian’s Rainbow” at Irish Repertory Company

November 6, 2016 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Off-Broadway Review: “Finian’s Rainbow” at Irish Repertory Company (Extended through Sunday January 29, 2017)
Music by Burton Lane
Book by E. Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy
Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg
Adapted and Directed by Charlotte Moore
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The 2016 Presidential Election has been perhaps the most contentious in modern history. Erupting from the three debates – as well as prior to the nominations – there has been a disturbing barrage of bigotry, xenophobia, sexism, and racism. Economic disparity has been used to woo voters without providing them any concrete paths to a better future. For these reasons, “Finian’s Rainbow” is a relevant and “groundbreaking” as it was in 1947 when it opened on Broadway on January 10 at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rogers).

Finian’s (Ken Jennings) trip to America with his daughter Sharon (Melissa Errico) and the pot of gold stolen from Og the leprechaun (Mark Evans) is a fitting trope for the national and global quest for a better life, a job, health benefits, and other aspects of the “dream” of success. Although the pot of gold does not multiply when buried in American soil (“the roads are paved with gold,” remember?), Finian does find a loving companion for his daughter and feels comfortable leaving Sharon in Woody’s (Ryan Silverman) care before he departs leaving them and the eclectic residents of Missitucky with a rainbow of hope for the future.

The Burton Lane’s music is sumptuous and is the star of this Irish Rep production. The book has been shortened considerably allowing the songs to take center stage throughout. Melissa Errico (Sharon) brings a heartfelt interpretation to “How Are Things in Glocca Mora” and, with Woody, Og, and the Ensemble, delivers “Old Devil Moon,” “If This Isn’t Love,” and “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich” with an authentic charm. The ensemble cast is outstanding and supports the principal actors with sheer perfection.

Despite the overall stellar performances, this production of “Finian’s Rainbow” falls flat and it is not easy to determine why; undoubtedly, the lack of energy has multiple mitigating circumstances. The set is uninspiring and pedestrian and seems like something one would find in a low-budget community production. Walls filled with musical notes and an abundance of plastic flowers just do not seem to work. The costumes are also uninspiring and often ill-fitting. And there is nothing original in the lighting or the choreography. Perhaps this matrix of lackluster creative team support affected the entire performance?

Whether it is possible for rich and poor, citizen and immigrant, and all people of all colors to live in harmony as they “Look to the Rainbow” is uncertain. Perhaps sometime after this upcoming election, perhaps further in the future. At least “Finian’s Rainbow” reminds of that dream and gives us the opportunity to wish it to be true. Who knows, there might even be a “Great Come and Get It Day!”