FINIAN’S RAINBOW a charmer at Woodminster Amphitheater Why We Have a Body not attracting an audience at Magic
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 www.woodminster.com 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
Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com
(Right upper) Lorri Holt as Eleanor. (Right lower)Lauren English & Rebecca Dines as Lili & Renee, (Below left) Maggie Mason as Mary in Why We Have a Body playing at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, San Francisco Photos by Jennifer Reiley.
WHY WE HAVE A BODY by Claire Chafee, directed by Katie Pearl/Jessica Holt. Magic Theatre, , Building D, Fort Mason Center, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94123. 415-441-8822 or www.magictheatre.org August 31 – October 2, 2011-09-11.
Magic Theatre in San Francisco has started their 45th season with a revival of Why We Have a Body by Claire Chafee that graced their stage in 1993 and was a smash hit or so they tell us in the PR info sheet. It is understandable that they would select a play that might replenish their coffers if, and that is a big “if” it were successful. The Sunday matinee attracted only 19 people other than me suggesting they have made a financial blunder even though it is an artistic gem.
There are only 4 actors, Lauren English, Rebecca Dines, Lorri Holt and Maggie Mason who represent the who’s who in Bay area theatre. The construction of the play is disjointed amounting to a series of monologs interspersed between a few very dramatic interludes. If there is a protagonist it would be Lauren English in the role of Lili, a lesbian private eye who specializes in tracking down wayward husbands while she herself is searching for an ideal mate.
That ideal mate turns out to be the married Renee (Rebecca Dines) a ), a paleontologist- or that could be a neurophysicist searching for her true sexual identity. The extended embrace scene between English and Dines is the stuff that would whet a voyeur’s desires. It was so real as to be embarrassing.
Mary (Maggie Mason) is Lili’s younger sister. Mary thrives on holding up 7-eleven stores and that keeps her in and out of jail. When free, or is it after she has escaped, she works directing traffic. Her maniacal actions give this 80 minute show a good dollop of humor. It needs it.
Then there is Eleanor (Lorri Holt) mother of Lili and Mary, a Scarlatti romantic who has taken off exploring the world, traveling through jungles, crossing rivers and even finds sanity in fly fishing. I guess she read Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler. Before she got hooked on angling she was a brain researcher discovering the female brain is larger than that of the male. The reason for this it has to store more memories. This is even more so in the lesbian brain than the straight brain because they have no future. Really?
There is no fixed set since the actors bring along the furniture that include a chais lounge, tables, a row of airplane seats and even a canoe. This works very smoothly and co-directors Katie Pearl and Jessica Holt do a fine job of keeping the time between scene changes minimal. If you wish to read anything into the script, there are many astute lines and many metaphors to invite intellectual conjecture. What you will walk away with is the marvel of the acting ability of all four accomplished actors.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com