Posts Tagged ‘Burton Lane’

It may be one of the most preposterous stories in musical theatre, but how can you resist a show with a leprechaun called Og who is fast becoming mortal, a mute character who communicates through dance steps, a corrupt racist US senator who gets magicked into poverty (and back again, reformed) and a song called How Are Things in Glocca Morra?! Oh, and a very good score that includes rousing gospel choruses led by Preacher Michael and his three singing ‘sisters’.

The Finian of the title brings the leprechaun’s crock of gold from Ireland to deep south USA, where the poor people of Rainbow Valley are struggling. The drought has put pay to the tobacco crop and the Senator and his corrupt Sheriff are trying to steal their land. Finian’s grand-daughter Sharon falls in love with local boy Woody and the soon to be mortal leprechaun with Woody’s mute sister Susan who is soon to be mute no more. The crock makes wishes come true and news of a gold find spreads to Chicago encouraging swanky retailer Shears & Robust to extend credit to the whole community to allow them to buy the things of their dreams.

Phil Wilmott’s production has it’s tongue firmly in its cheek and as long as you are prepared to suspend disbelief for a couple of hours, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. Twenty-three might break even the tiny Union’s cast record and there’s a three piece band too (plus the bassist’s friend sitting in silence!). There’s no designer credited but it looks good, and there’s some great choreography from Thomas Michael Voss. Above all it’s the music what makes it and it’s well sung, particularly by sweet voiced Christina Bennington as Sharon, and the choruses are rousing. James Horne and Raymond Walsh, playing Finian and Og respectively, have the appropriate gift of the gab and lots of charm and Michael Moulton makes a great larger-than-life baddie as the Senator.

Given it was written in 1947, Burton Lane & E.Y. Harburg’s show may have been a touch satirical then, with swipes at racism and corruption, but its the fun factor that makes it worth a visit today, the first opportunity to see it here for over 50 years.

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Another day, another rare revival of a Broadway show (the 60’s this time). This one has a book & lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner no less ( Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Camelot & Gigi) and music by the less well-known Burton Lane, the man who discovered Judy Garland.

It’s a funny little story concerning Daisy, whom a psychiatrist discovers is uber-susceptible and has ESP, who regresses under hypnosis and reveals a former life in England as Melinda, who the psychiatrist falls for. You can see why it wasn’t a big hit on Broadway; it’s a chamber piece with no big choruses and no real showstoppers. That makes it very suitable for the Union Theatre, of course – even more intimate than usual with seats on three sides.

It’s very tuneful, but only one song – the title number – stands out and the story is a bit daft, but director Kirk Jameson has done well with the material. The musical standards are particularly high under MD Inga Davies-Rutter. In a faultless ensemble, Vicki Lee Taylor shines as Daisy, with a spot-on American accent fine-tuned after six months in A Chorus Line. This is a real star performance worth the ticket price alone.

I love all these opportunities to catch up with old shows and though this isn’t the best, it’s well worth reviving and well worth catching.

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