And so today, we dive into the Second Elisberg Industries International Film Festival, featuring the Tony Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning little-known musical, Fiorello! One of my all-time faves. As I mentioned yesterday, it has a score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, who a few years after wrote Fiddler on the Roof.
(If you missed Part 1, just scroll down and start there...)
Before we get into the first song, though, I thought I'd post the overture to she show, not only as a nice way to begin, but I also happen to love it, one of the better overtures of a musical. One thing to mention, which was known by New Yorkers at the time, since Fiorello H. LaGuardia had been a very popular mayor there from 1933-1945, not all that many years before the show ran in 1959. It's that LaGuardia was an almost child-like fan of the fire department, and he was known the hitch a ride on a fire truck if it was speeding off to a fire. That's referenced in a fun way in the overture, and it should be pretty clear when it comes along.
Here then is the overture to Fiorello!
(I had originally embedded the audio only, but later found this video version that includes a montage with photographs from the original production and more.)
And now curtain up.
These videos in the Festival come from a 2012 production done at NYU. From what I can tell, having seen the show twice, this looks like a solid production.
This is the show's first number, "On the Side of the Angels." (Actually, alas, it's only the reprise, which comes after a brief break. But it offers a particularly fun bit of counterpoint.) The song largely features the three workers in Fiorello LaGuardia's law office, discussing what it's like working for someone who is so driven to help those the disenfranchised, immigrants, the poor, and those most in need. There's the enthusiastic Neil (played here by Zack Krajnyack) and world-weary cynic Morris (performed by Akira Fukui) -- as well as Joanne Shea as Marie, LaGuardia's long-suffering secretary who is utterly devoted to him, and -- as is clear -- more than infatuated by him.
That's the main part of the song. Then LaGuardia enters -- late, having been helping someone else in need -- and asks to hear from those other poor unfortunates waiting. So, you'll only get a little from him in this video, but Kenny Francoeur stars as Fiorello.
I've decided to include a bonus -- the full, original Broadway cast version of "On the Side of the Angels." Not only do I love the song, and think the whole thing deserves to be heard, but I also think that of all the songs in his portfolio, this is the best example of Sheldon Harnick's lyric writing. Not that it's necessarily his best lyric, but that it shows his craft the best.
What impresses me so much about his work (and Stephen Sondheim as well, who's a big admirer of Harnick, something he doesn't offer to many) is how his lyrics are not just poetic, but come across as conversation, as if they could be dialogue -- an incredibly rare feat. And this song shows that off beautifully, as the three office workers sing about this man they work for. It also has intelligent words ("My life will be selfless and pure, like Upton Sinclair"), along with some incredibly clever, but subtle rhymes, coming from a well-hidden rhyme scheme. Plus it's filled with some very good funny lines throughout, as well.
So, here is the full version of "On the Side of the Angels." (Side note: at the 3:25 mark, you hear Fiorello's only line in the song, "All right, my friends," is a young Tom Bosley, who years later went on to play the father Howard Cunningham on Happy Days.)
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