FIORELLO! - THOSE WERE THE DAYS
(Reviewed in July 2016 in its original presentation - same production - in the Berkshires before its Off-Broadway run in NYC.)
As an entertaining antidote to today’s toxic politics, a spirited, youthful production of the 1959 Pulitzer and Tony winning FIORELLO! hits the Unicorn Stage in Stockbridge, MA. The musicalized story of legendary New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and how he toppled the corrupt Tammany Hall when he was elected in 1933 looks quaint by what we’ve been politically enured to since. The idealism underpinning George Abbot and Jerome Weidman’s original book is heightened by this very young cast of mostly theater students in Berkshire Theatre Group’s actor apprentice program. It’s fun to watch these youthful performers take on New York stereotypes of old (Irish cop, Jewish lawyer, Italian pols) usually fleshed out by seasoned character actors, but each of these “kids” is of fully developed voice, so the wonderful songs with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick get the full expression they deserve. Austin Lombardi brings a wiry feistiness to the title role, but the supporting roles get the best numbers. A very perky Chelsea Green as Dora, the striking factory worker who falls in love with the Irish cop, explodes like a little firecracker with “ I Love a Cop.” Rebecca Brudneras Thea, Firoello’s first wife who died prematurely, brings exceptional vocal maturity to the bittersweet “When Did I Fall in Love” as does Katie Birenboim as Maria, Fiorello’s office assistant and second wife, with “The Very Next Man". BTG’s young, resident actor,Rylan Morsbach, once again proves his stage versatility. Equally at ease with roles as diverse as chimney sweep Bert in last year’s Mary Poppins or as Joey, a dim boxer in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, here he plays Ben, hard-boiled political boss, leading a sprightly ensemble in the play’s best known comical ditties, “Politics and Poker” and “Little Tin Box” Ah, youth.