I've had the second festival planned for quite a while, but just didn't know when to start posting it. A bit of kismet worked out. That's because after recent politic events I didn't know quite what to post tonight or upcoming. I don't want to rant all the time (though some of the time is just fine...). So -- what to do? And that's when I realized.
As readers of these pages know, I'm a massive lover of the show, which I called "The Greatest Musical You've Never Heard Of" in this article here. I feel confident with that description since most people have indeed never even heard of it (let alone seen it), yet it won the Tony Award for Best Musical, tying with The Sound of Music, over such shows as West Side Story. And it also became, at the time, only the third musical ever to win the Pulitzer Prize. Yet there's never been a film or TV production of it, and it's rarely done in community theater. (The reason for the latter is understandable but foolish -- since the show is about a little-known New York City mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia -- yes, that "LaGuardia," if you've flown into the named-airport), it's thought to be of interest only to New Yorkers. In fact, it's a universal tale about a little man fighting political corruption, whatever the city, and winning, and has two deeply-romantic love stories.)
Fiorello! is written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, the team who a few years later would write Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me. The book is by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott. Also of note is that starring in the show was a fairly unknown actor, Tom Bosley, who won the Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Musical...and later came to fame as Howard Cunningham, the father on Happy Days. It opened in 1959 and ran for 795 performances, almost two years.
I've seen a couple of productions of the show, and think it's wonderful. But alas, there is no filmed record of the show. However, when the Encores! series began in New York in 1994, doing concert productions of little-seen show, the first production they did was Fiorello! And when they had their 20th anniversary in 2013, they decided to do their first-ever repeat, and brought the show back.
Yet still, there is no record of Fiorello! on film. But a while back, I came across a series of videos from what looks to be a very good production done at New York University in 2012. And it's those videos that I'll string together over about 11 nights to present a very sketchy version of Fiorello! Given that it's a show about a noble lawyer (so much so that in the opening song, he's described as being "On the Side of the Angels," helping immigrants, the poor and needy) who battles the odds of the corrupt Tammany Hall, fights to get elected to Congress, losses in his run for mayor, goes to World War 1 and distinguishes himself, returning to New York to prepare a second run for mayor and defeat Tammany Hall and Mayor "Gentleman Jimmy" Walker as the curtain falls -- I figured it was about as wonderful an antidote to cynical political news of the day. And mixed in between with romance, loss of a loved one, and an unexpected new-found love.
The show itself will begin tomorrow. But like every good show, there should be an overture, so consider this that. It's 3-1/2 minute montage from the 20th anniversary Encores! production. In order of appearance, we have Danny Rutigliano (as Fiorello LaGuardia), Kate Baldwin (his first wife, Thea), Emily Skinner (at a fundraiser for Mayer Walker), Erin Dilly (LaGuardia's long-suffering and secretly in-love secretary) and Shuler Hensley (as the local political boss, Ben Marino).
I tried to embed the video here, and it probably won't play, but if you click on the link, it will take you to the Vimeo page.
And a refreshing breath of fresh air with the wonderful Fiorello!