Finian's Rainbow

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This article is about the stage musical. For the 1968 film adaptation, see Finian's Rainbow (film).
Finian's Rainbow
Original Broadway Playbill
Music Burton Lane
Lyrics E.Y. Harburg
Book E.Y. Harburg
Fred Saidy
Productions 1947 Broadway
1947 West End
mid-1950s animated film (unfinished)
1955 Broadway revival
1960 Broadway revival
1967 Broadway revival
1968 film
2004 Off-Broadway
2009 Encores! concert
2009 Broadway revival
2014 Off-West End revival

Finian's Rainbow is a musical with a book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, lyrics by Harburg, and music by Burton Lane, produced by Lee Sabinson. The original 1947 Broadway production ran for 725 performances, while a film version was released in 1968 and several revivals have followed.

Finian moves to the southern United States (the fictional state of Missitucky is a combination of Mississippi and Kentucky) from Ireland with his daughter Sharon, to bury a stolen pot of gold near Fort Knox, in the mistaken belief that it will grow. A leprechaun follows them, desperate to recover his treasure before the loss of it turns him permanently human. Complications arise when a bigoted and corrupt U.S. Senator gets involved, and when wishes are made inadvertently over the hidden crock. The Irish-tinged music score includes gospel and R&B influences.


A combination of whimsy, romance, and political satire, the plot revolves around Finian McLonergan, who has emigrated from Ireland to the town of Rainbow Valley in the mythical state of Missitucky with his daughter Sharon, intent on burying a stolen pot of gold in the shadows of Fort Knox, in the belief it will grow and multiply. Hot on their heels is Og, a leprechaun intent on recovering his treasure, before the loss of it turns him permanently human. Complicating matters are a corrupt senator who makes no effort to conceal his racial bigotry and the wishes made by those unknowingly in the vicinity of the hidden crock, including Sharon, who gives the senator a taste of his own hateful medicine by accidentally turning him black (temporarily). In the ultimate happy ending, Sharon marries the handsome, cocky young Woody Mahoney; and Woody's mute sister, "Susan the Silent", acquires the power of speech and falls in love with Og, who decides that being human is not so bad after all.

Production history[edit]

Original productions in New York and London[edit]

The original Broadway production opened on January 10, 1947 at the 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 725 performances. It was directed by Bretaigne Windust, choreographed by Michael Kidd, with orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and Don Walker. The cast included Ella Logan as Sharon, Donald Richards as Woody, Albert Sharpe as Finian, with the Lyn Murray Singers. David Wayne won both the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (the first one ever given) and the Theatre World Award for his performance as Og. The show also received Tonys for Best Conductor and Musical Director (Milton Rosenstock) and Best Choreography.

A London production opened at the Palace Theatre on October 21, 1947, running for only 55 performances.[1]

Revivals from 1955 to 2004[edit]

Finian's Rainbow was revived three times on Broadway by the New York City Center Light Opera Company. The brief 1955 production, directed by William Hammerstein and choreographed by Onna White, starred Helen Gallagher, Merv Griffin, and Will Mahoney, who was nominated for a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical. In 1960, Herbert Ross directed and choreographed a cast that included Jeannie Carson, Bobby Howes, Howard Morris, Sorrell Booke, and Robert Guillaume. A third revival was staged by the company in 1967. Although major revivals of the musical have been rare in recent decades, as the musical's treatment of bigotry against blacks in the American South has become dated, in 2004 the Irish Repertory Theatre staged a well-received off-Broadway production starring Melissa Errico, Johnathan Freeman, and Malcolm Gets.[2]

Film adaptations[edit]

In the early-1950s an animated feature film adaptation began production, directed by John Hubley. The crew included Art Babbit, Bill Tytla and Paul Julian. Among the cast were Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Barry Fitzgerald, Jim Backus and David Burns plus David Wayne and Ella Logan from the original Broadway production. The era's McCarthyism caused financing to be withdrawn due to Hubley and Harburg's refusal to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Pre-production artwork, sketches from the storyboard, character designs, the script and some of the soundtrack recording have been recovered. Examples of the art and designs were published in the March/April 1993 issue of Print to illustrate an article by animation historian John Canemaker about the backstory of the project.[3]

A 1968 film version with Fred Astaire, Tommy Steele and Petula Clark was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

2009 Encores! Concert and Broadway revival[edit]

New York's City Center Encores! series performed a concert version of the musical from March 26, 2009 through March 29. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, it starred Jim Norton and Kate Baldwin as Finian and Sharon, with Cheyenne Jackson as Woody and Jeremy Bobb as Og, the leprechaun.[4]

A fully staged Broadway revival opened at the St. James Theatre on October 29, 2009,[5] with most of the Encores! cast and director-choreographer Carlyle returning.[6] Notable replacements to the cast were Christopher Fitzgerald as Og the leprechaun, David Shramm as Senator Rawkins and Chuck Cooper as Rawkins transformed into a black man.[7][8] Ernest Harburg, Yip Harburg's son and president of the Harburg Foundation, said "The satire of our economic system is particularly relevant right now [2009], given the nation’s deep financial woes."[9]

The producers closed the show on January 17, 2010, stating that the "economic realities of Broadway today" did not allow them to play for as long as they had hoped.[10] The production sold approximately two-thirds of its seats for the 15-week run.[11][12] Garth Drabinsky offered to try to rescue the revival and secure Canadian tour commitments, but the producers rejected his proposal.[13]

The show was nominated for 2010 Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actress in a Musical (Baldwin) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Fitzgerald).

A short spoof was part of episode 19 of the 1970 season of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

2014 London Fringe and Off-West End Revival[edit]

A fully staged London revival opened at the Union Theatre on February 12 - March 15, 2014. [14] This production was directed by Phil Willmott and musically directed by Richard Baker, with choreography by Thomas Michael Voss, and starred James Horne as Finian, Christina Bennington as Sharon, Joseph Peters as Woody, Raymond Walsh as Og and Anne Odeke as Sister Anne and Rawkin's maid. The production later moved to the Charing Cross Theatre between April 2 and May 10 with the majority of the same cast and crew.[15]

Song list[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1947 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical David Wayne Won
Best Choreography Michael Kidd Won
1948 Best Conductor and Musical Director Milton Rosenstock Won

1955 Broadway revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1956 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Will Mahoney Nominated

2009 Broadway revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2010 Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Kate Baldwin Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Nominated
Drama Desk Award[16] Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Cheyenne Jackson Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Kate Baldwin Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Won
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Terri White Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Warren Carlyle Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design Scott Lehrer Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award[17] Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Kate Baldwin Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Terri White Nominated


Ella Logan on the original cast album

An original cast recording released as a six-disc 78 rpm set by Columbia Records was the label's first recording of a Broadway musical. The label used the album to introduce its new LP format in June 1948. In 1988, the album was released on CD, and in 2000, a second CD version appeared that was remastered from the original acetates and restored some material originally recorded but cut from the show, including three bonus tracks in which Harburg discusses the writing of and sings "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" and "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love," as well as singing "Don't Pass Me By," a song cut from the show.[18]

A recording of the original cast of the 1960 Broadway production, starring Jeannie Carson, Howard Morris, Biff mcGuire, Carol Brice, Sorrell Booke and Bobby Howes was released on RCA Victor LSO-1057.

A cast recording of the 2009 revival was recorded on December 7 by PS Classics and released on February 2, 2010.[19]


  1. ^ Finian's Rainbow at the Guide to Musical Theatre, accessed May 4, 2010
  2. ^ Finian's Rainbow review., April 11, 2004
  3. ^ "John Canemaker. "Lost Rainbow". ''Print'' March/April 1993". Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  4. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Norton, Jackson and Baldwin Look to the Rainbow Beginning March 26 at City Center"., March 26, 2009
  5. ^ "Summary:Finian's Rainbow Reviews, retrieved January 17, 2010
  6. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Producers Want to Move Encores! Finian's Rainbow to Broadway"., April 2, 2009
  7. ^ Itzkof, Dave. "Christopher Fitzgerald, Chuck Cooper Join Finian’s Rainbow on Broadway". The New York Times, July 16, 2009
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Cheyenne Jackson to Star in Broadway's Finian's Rainbow,", July 22, 2009
  9. ^ "Busting with Bliss: Five Questions for Ernie Harburg". 
  10. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2009-12-30). "Wanna Cry: Finian's Rainbow's End Will Be Jan. 17". Playbill. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  11. ^ 'Finian's Rainbow' Grosses-2009, retrieved January 17, 2010
  12. ^ 'Finian's Rainbow' Grosses-2010, retrieved January 17, 2010
  13. ^ "Drabinsky's Offer to Help Finian's Rainbow Rejected by New York Producers"., January 18, 2010
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ Cox, Gordon."Drama Desk fetes 'Ragtime,' 'Scottsboro'", May 3, 2010
  17. ^ Gans, Andrew."Outer Critics Circle Awards Noms Announced; Memphis, Royal Family Top List", April 26, 2010
  18. ^'s%20Rainbow%20%5BOriginal%20Broadway%20Cast%5D:1921064852
  19. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Finian's Rainbow Cast Album Recorded Dec. 7; Disc Will Be in Stores Feb. 2", December 7, 2009


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