Recently I had the opportunity to head over to the fabulous St. James Theater to watch a showing of Finian’s Rainbow, a reproduction of the 1946 Broadway musical, which has been revived a few times, not only on the theatrical stage but on the big movie screen as well.
A friend of mine and I went with my 12 year old son and his 12 year old friend. As a New Yorker, I have always thought it to be extremely important to expose my children to the wonderful world of theater, though I wondered if this particular show might be a bit too sophisticated for two 12 year old boys.
The St. James Theater is a stunning venue. The massive chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings, the hand painted details and carvings on wood along the walls and above the stage, in part showing its age, while at the same time embracing us in grandeur as we took our seats near the orchestra, all setting the tone for the wonderful experience that was about to follow.
Finian’s Rainbow is set in Missitucky, the mythical deep southern state where Finian McLornegan (Oliver Norton) moves to, from Ireland, with his daughter Sharon (Kate Baldwin), to bury a crock of gold Finian stole with the belief that it will grow and lead to unmentionable riches. They are followed there by Og (Christopher Fitzgerald), a leprechaun and the crock’s owner who desperetdly needs to recover it before the loss of it turns him permanently human. All is made a bit trickier when the corrupt and racist U.S. Senator (David Schramm and Chuck Cooper) gets caught in an inadvertent wish made over the hidden crock. Sharon’s love interest, Woody Mahoney, is wonderfully played by Cheyenne Jackson, most recently seen in Xanadu.
The musical score for the show is absolutely beautiful. Music Director, Rob Berman does a magnificent job in bringing back to life the classical beauty of the pieces that made this show so easily recognizable to so many of us growing up listening to Broadway musicals favored by our parents.
I have to say of the many powerful voices in the show, Terri White’s rendition of “Necessity” was by far the most awesome. Though her character Dottie has few speaking parts, her presence on stage and that one musical performance are truly unforgettable.
At one point my friend and I wondered if the boys were bored by the show. Though we were enjoying it, we questioned if the story line and characters would seem too silly, or if it was incapable of retaining the interest of two tweens. So during intermission we asked, and were we wrong! The boys were having a wonderful time, excitedly telling me abut their favorite characters and wondering out loud what was going to become of the leprechaun, the Senator, and the crock of gold. In addition, they took the opportunity to walk around the theater just to see more of it than what the view from their seats allowed.
We grown ups really enjoyed the experience of what I call “old school” theater. Nowadays, so much of it involves high tech props or fast track musical numbers. And though they can contribute to a fascinating show, sometimes we are left longing for those original, big orchestra, incredible acting productions that are so wonderful and powerful because of their simplicity and human artistic craft.
The cast received a standing ovation, as did the orchestra. The boys ran out of the theater, playbill in hand, and stood on line to get autographs from the young actors, whom they were in complete awe of as well.
A perfect musical for kids 10 and over, who enjoy musical comedy and are enthralled more by the art of acting and music than shows and high tech spectacles. “I thought the acting was amazing and funny,” said my 12 year old, “most of all, I was really impressed when watching the young actors, who seemed close to my age.”
A real feel-good show I would recommend to all my friends. Classical Broadway, beautiful in every way.
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Now through December 20th, Trekaroo families can get select orchestra and mezzanine row seats for $59 tickets (Tues-Fri) and $75 tickets (Sat + Sun). Go to Broadway Offers or call Telecharge at 212-947-8844 and use our special discount code FRBOW75.
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Carol Cain from The Adventures of a NYCity Mama is a contributing writer on Trekaroo, a reviews website dedicated to helping parents explore and travel with kids. Tickets to review the show were complimentary and did not require the reviewer to express a particular point of view.