FINIAN’S RAINBOW a charmer at Woodminster Amphitheater

Center Gene Brundage as Finian McLonergan. Clockwise from upperleft: Tom Reardon as Woody and Juliet Heller as Sharon; Meg Jaron as Susan; Jayson Lamb, Kelly Houston, Rod Voltaire Mora, Michael LeRoy Brown as the Gospeleers; children and leprechaun L to R, Lino Goggins-Rendon, Sophia Tuma, Tyler Kent as Og, Jana Chism. Truman Ports. All photos by Kathy Kahn.

FINIAN’S RAINBOW: Musical Comedy. Music by Burton Lee, Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, Book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy Woodminster Summer Musicals by Producers Associates, Inc. Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Road, Oakland. 510-531-9597, or September 2 - 11, 2011.

FINIAN’S RAINBOW a charmer at Woodminster Amphitheater

Woodminster Summer Musicals ends with a real crowd pleaser as 50 or so dedicated thespians tread the huge stage singin’ and dancin’ up a storm that will have you leaving the amphitheater humming the many “hummable” tunes. But alas you won’t have the marvelous 13 piece orchestra with local favorite Brandon Adams at the piano to accompany you. You will have difficulty deciding which tune to hum first with such great songs "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?", “Look to the Rainbow”, and “Old Devil Moon," to name just three of the nine or so show stoppers.

Although the play is a bewitching fantasy, it is also a scathing political satire that ran afoul of McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee when it trod the boards in1947. FDR’s Tennessee Valley project (TVA), that plays a major role in the plot, was a socialistic project bringing low cost electricity to the down-trodden Southern rural areas. Never-the-less it ran for 725 performances, has had several revivals even becoming a film version with Fred Astaire, Tommy Steele and Petula Clark.

It all begins with two intrepid visitors from Ireland arriving in Missitucky (no it is not a misspelling), U.S.A. Finian McLonergan (Gene Brundage) has stolen the leprechaun’s pot of gold and is going to plant it near Fort Knox, mistakenly believing that it will grow into many more pots of gold. Daughter Sharon (Juliet Heller) has been brought along in hopes of finding her a suitable husband. Hot on their heels is leprechaun Og (Tyler Kent) to retrieve the gold informing Finian that if he gets the three wishes promised in the legend, the gold will turn to dust. So beware of what you wish for. Gene Brundage is a charmer with more than a touch of Fred Astaire in his step and Tyler Kent, the audience favorite, matches well with Tommy Steele and Juliet Heller has a fine voice. Her love interest, and savior of the community Woody (Tom Reardon) performs admirably and their duets “Look to the Raibow”, “If This Isn’t Love” and “That Old Devil Moon” are delightful. Tyler Kent should take advice from W.C. Fields and never perform with a children. Tiny Sophia Tuma and Jana Chism almost stole his thunder in the second act in the reprise of one of his songs. But Tyler is not to be upstaged and has the audience in the palm of his hands with “Something Sort of Granish” and in his finale “When I’m not near the Girl I Love” sung to the beautiful and fine dancer Meg Jason in the role of Silent Susan.

There are too many fine performances in the cast to single out individuals but the Gospeleers ( Rod Voltaire Edora, Kelly Houston, Jason Lamb) lead by Michael Leroy Brown jivin’ to “The Begat” deserve special mention. The ensemble of 40 or more make up in energy for any missteps and their rousing “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich” is a colorful gem with outrageous costumes (Alison Morris and April Sorensen) that must be seen to believed. All in all Woodminister comes through again with a family fun professional evening.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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