Finian's Rainbow | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Finian's Rainbow


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FINIAN'S RAINBOW, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Too seldom revived, this whimsical 1947 musical deftly interweaves the colorful denizens of "Rainbow Valley, Missitucky": a racist senator, a leprechaun who falls for a mortal, an Irish immigrant hoping to find a rainbow at the end of a stolen pot of gold, and an integrated chorus of tobacco farmers. An amalgam of Li'l Abner and A Midsummer Night's Dream, this sturdy confection by E.Y. Harburg, Burton Lane, and Fred Saidy is less dated than one might expect. Its most controversial incident--the leprechaun changing the Dixie bigot into a mellow African-American singer--now seems more poetic justice than vaudevillian stereotyping, and it's a perfect excuse for the splendiferous "Begat" quartet. Delirious with wordplay, Finian's Rainbow abounds in sly populist satire, notably the hypocrisy-puncturing "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich."

John DeLuca's surefooted staging casts its own spells. Though Kate Baldwin inflicts some anachronistic pop-music stylings on the oft repeated "How Are Things in Glocca Morra," she gives Sharon McLonergan grit and pluck. As her American husband, Brian Herriott nicely croons his way through the delicious "Old Devil Moon." Among the savvy comic turns, Ronald Keaton twinkles and beguiles as Sharon's blarney-spouting father, Don Forston blusters appropriately as the cross-cultural senator, and Ian Brennan is perfect as the nimble, horny leprechaun, mining every laugh from "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love."

--Lawrence Bommer

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