Finian's Rainbow' brightens Goodspeed stage in style
A talented cast makes this musical enchanting.
By Fred Sokol
The Union News, May 10, 1997
"Finian's Rainbow" plays like a charming folk tale, and the current production at Goodspeed Opera House brings the old building to rollicking life.

Its 24 splendid cast members dash, dance, and spin about the stage and race up and down the aisles more than a few times during the course of the production which continues through July 4.

More sophisticated in message than actual plot, the musical was conceived more than 50 years ago with book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, lyrics by Harburg and music by Burton Lane.

Something of a fantasy, it's also gently satirical. The Meetin' Place in imagined Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, is fictional, but clearly in the deep South. James M. Youmans' set features a green mound of earth upon which Finian (James Judy) arrives. The back-ground includes rolling hills which yield to blue skies above

Having pilfered a large pot of gold from his native Ireland, Finian comes to American hoping to create a great life for himself and his daughter, Sharon (Erin Dilly).

"How are Things in Glocca Morra?" asks Sharon - and, in this case, Erin Dilly delivers a mellifluous version of the tune.
She meets the homespun Woody Mahoney (David M. Lutken) and teams with him for a silvery duet on "Old Devil Moon."

Musical director Michael O'Flaherty and choreographer Jennifer Paulson Lee spark the proceedings with the dashing "If This Isn't Love."

"Necessity," performed by women and girls, showcases Inga Ballard's sterling voice. Late in the ct, Og, a leprechaun (Robert Creighton) pops up, accuses Finian of thievery, and will allow for three wishes. Toward the very end of the act, one is granted: Senator Billboard Rawkins (Ron Wisniski), a racist, land-hoaring white man, suddenly (in a literal flash) turns black.

During the second act, the combination of myth and parody is more wildly apparent with "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich." It's time for all the local folks - sharecroppers and just plain citizens - to order up from their Shears and Robust catalog. They get skis, vacuum cleaners, golf clubs, cameras, fans, kitchen gadgets - it's all ludicrously delightful.

Senator Rawkins' conversion is complete as he leads "Amazing Grace." Four-part harmony defines "Begat," and production numbers like "Look to the Rainbow" are sensational and uplifting.

One of Of's wishes enables sharecroppers to reclaim their land from the now redemptive Rawkins. Finally, as a third wish, mute Susan (Jennifer Paulson Lee) speaks for the first time.

Paulson Lee dances brilliantly throughout the show. She her performed worldwide, and this is the fifth Goodspeed production she's choreographed.

As Finian, Judy provides a sure performance while Dilly's romantic Sharon is immediately winning. Creighton endows Og with spice and zip. Lutken hits his mark as the bumpkin Woody while Wisniski, as Rawkins, is credible before and after metamorphosis.

"Finian's Rainbow," a fine time and impressively staged, comes together through Gabriel Barre's deft direction. This is a large show, and without specific coordination, it might have foundered.

No chance of that at the Goodspeed.

Barre is a fine stage and screen actor who has, himself, appeared in films like "Quiz Show" and "Stardust Memories." On television, he had featured roles in the series "Kate and Allie" and "Fame."

Nominated for a Tony Award for his Broadway role in "Starmites," he leads this cast in a vigarous, ascendant version of an enchanting show. Barre's presence facilitates a musical which flies forward, never flagging.