42nd Street opened its 99-00 season with Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Pulitzer Prize musical Fiorello. If this production is any indication, it is going to be a great season. Fiorello opened on Broadway during fall season of 1959. It won 4 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Featured Actor for Tom Bosley. He took home the prize as “Best Featured Actor” since the arcane rules of the Tonys said that if the name was below the title, it would relegate the actor to the supporting actor category. Hal Prince and George Abbot, the director, protested to no avail so Mr Bosley had to complete against the true “supporting actor” Howard DeSilva. The show ran two years on Broadway and then had a successful tour through the United States. I saw the musical here in San Francisco. It became one of my most favorite scores.
The musical is rarely produced now. However the Reprise Series of LA will present a concert version of the musical on November 10-12, 1999. Fiorello tells the story of the Depression-era New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia from his years as a Greenwich Village lawyer through his election to Congress, service in World War I, marriage, the Great Depression, political wins and losses and his election. It is a heartfelt tale of honor and perseverance, a musical tale of idealism, practicalities, love, loss and endurance. The music is as brassy and energetic as its hometown.
The company did a superb job with great chorus singing. Highlights were the main melodies “Till Tomorrow”, “Home Again” and “Little Tin Box”. The latter was sung with great gusto by the politicians and brought down the house. Steven Patterson gave a smart performance as the pragmatic politico who snaps to life on the graft song “Little Tin Box”. Bob Green, who has appeared on television and film, played Fiorello. He was excellent as the Little Flower. Outstanding also was Stephanie Rhodes as the first Mrs. La Guardia. She was in excellent voice in the songs “Till Tomorrow” and “When Did I Fall in Love”. Also great was Amy Cole in the solo tap number “Gentlemen Jimmy”. As usual, Bill Fahrner shined in voice and demeanor. The concert version closes April 4th. The next concert will be Jerome Kern’s 1924 musical Sitting Pretty. It opens for three week ends starting August 5, 1999.
- Richard Connema