book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, adapted by Charlotte Moore, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg music by Burton Lane.
Union Theatre 204 Southwark Street SE1 0LX To 15 March 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30 pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 16 February.
One to Come to and Get.
Finian’s Rainbow flopped here in 1947, running a mere 55 performances. A 1957 production starring Shani Wallis and a 1960 one directed by Robert Helpman no less, also failed to come into town. So why revive it now?
Director Phil Wilmott, confronted with the ghastly plot, has wisely concentrated on Burton Lane’s glorious score and the sparkling lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, not a dud among them. The plot, however, tries to combine serious social concerns with the whimsy of the way Americans conceive the Irish.
Most of this is ignored by Wilmot. In the book as writ the racist senator is turned Black when Finian’s daughter uses one of the wishes bestowed on her. Here he just vanishes Ignoring a plot device which beggars belief is the best thing to have done.
That said there are lots of reasons for going. Choreographer Thomas Michael Voss has come up with some rousing dance routines; Wilmott, a dab hand at musicals, keeps everything flowing fast enough for the holes not to show, handling the large cast beautifully; and there is a truly terrific performance from James Horne as the larcenous Finian, a funny and loveable rogue with a twinkle in his eye.
As Og the leprechaun Raymond Walsh is a mite restrained but at least, unlike Tommy Steele in the appalling 1968 screen version, he does not go totally over the top. The rest of the young cast do well enough, although there are rather too many of Mrs Worthington’s sons and daughters on stage for comfort.
Musical standards at the Union are always high and there is a first rate band to play the first rate score. But the individual singing does make one wonder just what standard of musical tuition drama schools are providing. Chorally they sound fine, but none possesses a stand-alone voice one wants to listen to – even when they hit the note.
But there are ‘How Are Things in Glocca Morra?’, the best-ever fake Irish ballad, ‘Look to the Rainbow’, ‘If This Isn’t Love’ and the potentially show-stopping ‘That Great Come and Get It Day’ to enjoy.
Finian McLonegan: James Horne.
Sharon: Christina Bennington.
Og: Raymond Walsh.
Preacher Michael: Michael Moultoj.
Sister Anne/Rawkins Maid: Anne Odeke.
Sister Marcia: Marcia Lorenzo.
Sister Cerise: Cerise Reid.
Senator Rawkins: Michael J Hayes.
Sheriff/Mr Robust of Shears and Robust: John Last.
Woody Mahoney: Joseph Peters.
Susan Mahoney: Laura Bella Griffin.
Henry/Mr Shears of Shears and Robust: David Malcolm.
Jack: Chris Jayson.
Jay: Joshua Coley.
Buzz: Carl Bradley.
Miss Celia: Celia Byrne.
Miss Laura: Laura Webb.
Miss Shani: Shani Cantor.
Miss Danielle/Dance Captain: Danielle Acors.
Miss Lucy: Lucy Murdoch.
Miss Rebecca: Rebecca Crawley.
Miss Abigail: Abigail Carter-Simpson.
Miss Stacey: Stacey Victoria Bland.
Director: Phil Willmott.
Lighting: Tom Boucher.
Musical Director: Richard Baker.
Choreographer: Thomas Michael Voss.
Costume: Kirk Jameson.
Assistant director: Jack Thorpe-Baker.