Thursday, October 4, 2012
GREAT OLD MUSICAL: FIORELLO
Fiorello! is the story of one of New York City's most famous majors, Fiorello La Guardia, actually covering his life and career just up until the time he decides to run for mayor. But there's no lack of drama in his earlier life as he runs for Congress, argues in favor of the draft and enlists in the Army during WW 1 to bolster his argument, marries a woman who was accused of prostitution when she was only picketing for better working conditions at a factory, takes on corruption and racketeers, and so on. The book by Weidman and Abbott intelligently and expertly covers a lot of territory and presents both the good and bad points in La Guardia's character. None of this would matter if there weren't plenty of good songs, and Fiorello! has a tuneful and witty score thanks to composer Jerry Bock [She Loves Me!] and lyricist Sheldon Harnick.
Fiorello! was a hit on Broadway in the sixties, and it was a hit again judging from the reaction of the very mixed-ages audience at NYU's Skirball center on Sunday September 30th, 2012. I mean, this was a Broadway-quality production on every level. From the direction [William Wesbrooks] to the conducting [Michael Ricciardone] to choreography [MK Lawson] and so on, this knocked it out of the ball park in every single instance -- the staging, dancing, settings were impeccable. There was also a highly professional cast, leading with Kenny Francoeur adeptly portraying a much older man; Joanne Shea touching and appealing as the woman who has been secretly in love with Fiorello for many years; and Jessica Fishenfeld as Wife Number One singing the pants off the show's very beautiful show stopper, "When Did I Fall in Love?" Akira Fukui [playing the Jewish Morris!]; Zack Robert Wagner as Neil; Eli Rose as cop Floyd; Stephanie Marantz as his lady love Dora; Jake Kinney as Ben; and Bethany Fagan, who displays plus-sized sex appeal in her turn as Jimmy Walker fan Mitzi, also deserve kudos.
The show is remarkably faithful to the true facts of La Guardia's life, although I've no doubt there was a little dramatic license here and there. I liked the very bouncy orchestrations, and such melodious numbers as "Politics and Poker," "The Very Next Man;" "Home Again," and the lilting waltz number, "Till Tomorrow." Incredibly, the seats for this show were only twenty dollars! It's a shame that after all the hard work, there were only two performances of this splendid entertainment.
Lincoln Center's Encores series is also doing Fiorello! early next year. NYU's wonderful production is going to be a very tough act to follow.
Verdict: Superb on every level. ****.