Robert Tanitch reviews Finian’s Rainbow at Union Theatre, London, SE1
One of the best places to catch up with old musicals has always been the Union Theatre in Southwark. Burton Lane and E Y Harburg’s musical fantasy premiered in New York in 1947 and ran for 725 performances.
In London it ran for 55 and, not surprisingly, hasn’t been seen since. There was a 1968 film version with Fred Astaire, Petula Clark and Tommy Steele as the leprechaun.
Finian and his daughter arrive in Missitucky (sic) from Ireland with a crock of gold he has stolen from a leprechaun and he intends to bury it in American soil and become rich.
There’s a lot of Irish whimsy and not much of a story.
The girl falls in love with a local lad. A white senator, a racist bigot, with the help of a bit of magic, is transformed into a black man. In this revival, directed by Phil Willmott, he remains white and merely becomes poor.
In its day Finian’s Rainbow was admired for its wit, its political satire and its integration of a black and white cast. The songs, which are the best thing about it, include Old Devil Moon, If This Isn’t Love, Look to the Rainbow and How Are Things in Glocca Morra?
The cheerful cast, which is headed by James Horne as Finian, sings up and never stops smiling.