As the show nears its conclusion, Fiorello LaGuardia's long-suffering secretary Marie has finally given up her hope of getting together with her boss, who she's secretly loved for almost since she began working for him 15 years earlier. But it was a work relationship at first, then he fell in love and married the beautiful Thea, and now he's grieving over her death, and still recouping from having lost the race for mayor. And so, enough waiting -- Marie finally gets to sing her declaration of independence and re-enter the world, in "The Very Next Man."
There's a bit of a treat in this video, it should be noted. It comes from the 2012 NYU production, and sung by Joanne Shea. For those who know and likely love the original cast album, it's a gem but has one hiccup. There's a single passage in this song, "The Very Next Man," which was intended sarcastically, to show Marie joking about how much she anxious to move on and marry someone else than Fiorello, anyone else. And for its era, 1959, the exaggeration fit the time. But as society moved on, it stopped being funny. In fact, it made performing the song in productions awkward. Harnick himself has said he was deeply uncomfortable by the line -- and so he did something rare, almost unprecedented -- despite all the acclaim and awards of the show, he rewrote the passage. And in fact, it's now the only authorized version of the song that can be performed in the show. If you wanted to sing the original version in an official production -- you can't, it's gone. (The problematic line in question, again, intended as an exaggerated joke, began "And if he likes me, who cares how frequently he strikes me." Yes, I know. And it goes on. But it's excised, it has ceased to be. And the new version is performed in this video here. So, people who only know the cast album will be hearing the new, authorized version of "The Very Next Man" for the first time.
So that you can keep an ear open for it at the 2:30 mark, the passage begins, "When he proposes, I'll have him send me tons of roses." There's also a wonderful inside joke in the lyric, where Marie continues the theme of blossoms and refers to not wanting just one little flower. The joke is that the translation of the Italian word "fiorello" is -- "little flower." That was LaGuardia's real-life nickname, referred to in the show, as well.
Though that's the final video available for the show, I realized that I can't end it that way. So, to bring things to the proper conclusion, we'll go to the audio from the original Broadway cast album, and here is the finale to Fiorello!
As the story develops, Fiorello has come out of his doldrums and regained his sense of purpose and goals. And he realizes another important thing as well -- and after all these years, he proposes to Marie. And as she comes to grips that the very next man is actually Fiorello LaGuardia, the love of her life, he begins to tell her his plans that he wants her to be a part of. And they include once again running for mayor of New York -- something history tells us that it turns out very well. And with that, his supporters growing again in strength, the curtain falls.
Here are Tom Bosley, who won a Tony Award playing 'Fiorello' and Patricia Wilson as 'Marie'.
And finally, here's a bonus tale, a story (as best as I can remember) that Sheldon Harnick has told about the writing of Fiorello!
When the show's creators were in the process of developing it, they needed the approval of the real people still living -- and also wanted their stories as part of their research. The one holdout was the woman who in the show they ended up calling "Marie." When they showed up at her apartment, she was very reticent and protective of her late husband and of her life. And the one thing she would adamantly not talk about at all was Fiorello's first wife, Thea. She didn't know how they would deal with things, and she was very closed off to them. As time passed, though, she began to open up to their personalities and see what they were trying to do with the show. And at least understood that her beloved husband's life and hers were in very good hands. And the meeting lasted a long time and went wonderfully.
And then, as it all ended, and they walked to the door, and about to say their goodbyes, "Marie" leaned towards them, and very quietly but emphatically said -- "Thea was gorgeous."
And with that, we end Fiorello!