Preview: Finian’s Rainbow, New Earswick Musical Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, March 31 to April 3
Friday, 26 March 2004
FINIAN’S Rainbow is rarely performed, on account of its theme of racial bigotry and political persecution.
Amateur societies have tended to shy away from E Y ‘Yip’ Harburg’s satirical fantasy show, written in 1947 when he had been blacklisted in Hollywood.
However, New Earswick Musical Society has taken the bull by the horns… and changed the story of Irish enchantment ever so slightly for next week’s production at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York.
Director Ann McCreadie says: “Finian’s Rainbow is not often done because of the black and white issue, where a land-grabbing racist white senator is turned into a black evangelist, but we’ve managed to get copyright permission to change it from a theme of black and white to rich and poor. They have not only approved of it, they thought it would be a good idea for other companies to do the same.”
What gave her the idea? “Funnily enough, Doug Waft, who used to direct the New Earswick shows, had come up with the same idea too,” she says. “There’s already a song in the show called When The Idle Poor Become The Idle Rich, and so we’ve just changed the words in the piece where they needed changing.”
Asked why Finian’s Rainbow is worth reviving, Ann says: “The music is superb, the libretto is good, and altogether it’s a magical musical with a cast of 30, with six children involved.”
The title role goes to John Friar, playing Finian McLonergan, the Irishman who travels to Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, in the Deep South, with a crock of gold stolen from a leprechaun, Og (Vic Herd). Further roles go to Claire Walker as the mute Susan, Helen Nicholls as Sharon and Paul Blenkiron as Woody.