Finian's Rainbow (1984)

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Lyrics by E.Y.Harburg, Music by Burton Lane, Book by E.Y.Harburg & Fred Saidy

Directed by Bruce Murray, Assistant Director Robert Hedden, Musical Director Nick Robinson

Performances: Weds 4th – Sat 7th (matinee 2pm Sat 7th) & Tues 10th - Sat 14th January (Gala performance Thurs 12th) 1984, Bell Theatre


Performed by arrangement with Chappell & Co. Ltd. Finian's Rainbow was first performed at the 46th Street Theatre, New York on January 10th 1947, and ran for 725 performances. The show opened at the Palace Theatre, London on October 21st 1947.

When this musical first opened it was considered ahead of its time, combining the story of an Irishman whose leprechaun comes to life in the American South with the theme of racial injustice.

The story concerns Finian McLonaghan, who having stolen the crock of gold from the bottom of the rainbow, leaves Ireland with his daughter Sharon in search of a new life in Rainbow Valley, a small tobacco town in the mythical state of Missytucky in America's deep South.

Ogg, the leprechaun, follows Finian in hot pursuit of his crock of gold and finds he is slowly turning mortal. Combined with Ogg's misadventures is the tale of Senator Rawlins, a greedy racial bigot, who, through Sharon inadvertently using up the crock's three magical wishes, turns black.




Donald Madgwick on an Irish Revival

"Blarney-kissed Iraih Whimsy comes by the crockful at the Bell Theatre ... where SLTC are performing 'Finian's Rainbow'....

This musical, by lyricist E.Y. Harburg and composer Burton Lane, had a long run in post-war New York but failed in London. Perhaps the explanation lies in a question the play asks and answers. What makes America different from Ireland? It has more Irishmen in it.

Personally, I am prepared to give 'Rainbow' a warm welcome for it is a good-hearted show, and in Bruce Murray's imaginative production the Irish element is very sweetly handled indeed..... And here is the heart of the production. Mike Mattey and Ann Richards work splendidly in harness ... Mike is often seen in roles calling for agonised introspection, and as Finian he seems to revel in the freedom to express an ebullient personality.

John Hartnett is no less accomplished as Ogg .... He, 'the nemesis on me premises', has a glorious impish manner, everyone's identikit leprechaun to the life.

There is a curiously haunting performance by Nikki Hogg as Susan Mahoney, Susan the Silent, a shimmering, elusive creature with a touch of mystery. Pam Lyne makes a strong impression as the severe Miss Hire Purchase.

Paul Allen gives a good support to Ann Richards as the likable Woody Mahoney who falls under her Irish spell.

The chorus bustle about to good effect and form themselves into effective groupings that are never dull. The music comes over at its best in the punchier numbers such as 'Necessity'. Music is provided off-stage by Nick Robinson (piano) and Vince Dunn (percussion)"

Extracts from the review by Donald Madgwick, as reprinted in SCENE, from The Croydon Advertiser.

From our then MP

"Dear M/s Mattey,

Just a note to thank you for a wonderful evening and the most enjoyable play last Saturday.

Yours sincerely, John Fraser M.P., House of Commons.

From the children at Fairchildes Junior Mixed School, Croydon.

"Thank you for arranging Finian's Rainbow for us I liked it very much. It was a very good story and it was acted very well and all the costumes were very good as well.

Sarah White."

"Thank you for letting us come to South London Theatre Centre to watch Finian's Rainbow. We all enjoyed it very much. The refreshments were very nice. Thank you again for the evening.

Rosemary Clark."

"Finian's Raibow was lovely, thank you for arranging it and for letting us come. I think it was very good.

Danny Hearne"

From the Headmaster's office:

"We had a marvellous evening and the children were thrilled with the show. Please thank the cast, particularly Mike Mattey for a really good performance, as usual I was very impressed. I enclose the children's thank-you letters which were totally spontaneous."


Reminiscences and Anecdotes

Due to the death of the Lighting operator's mother on the morning of the last performance the Stage Manager had to take over as Lighting Operator and Richard Wood took over his Stage Management duties.

One night despite being called down from the dressing room (then co-located with the rehearsal room) and confirmed as leaving one of the backing singers did not make it onto the stage, though she was back in the dressing room later. We have never worked out where she got to.

The rainbow of the title was shown on stage by projecting three colours overlapping (red, green and blue) from three lanterns filled with gobos (metal cutouts) hung from the middle bar over the stage. Getting the correct line-up took a long time hanging out from the catwalk as the bar moved and flexed during the run-up week and performances.

This was the first (and last) show I stage managed. With three large pieces of scenery on casters (2 of which formed a bridge that had to have a span inserted twice per show) which only just fitted into the storage area in the wings and all had to be moved to get anyone on stage, and a cast that seemed to stand waiting for their cues just where we were moving them off to tried my nerves too much.

Brian Fretwell

See Also

Have there been other SLTC/SLT productions of this play? Link to them here.

Or add anything that is related within this site. The author's page for instance or other plays with a similar theme.



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