(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/10; via Pam Green.)
Imagine, if you can, a musical comedy called “La Guardia!” Picture a chorus angrily lamenting their canceled flights. A frustrated plaint from an overtaxed ticketing agent trying to calm them. A frenetic hip-hop dance number as arriving passengers dodge traffic to find their Uber drivers.
We do not have such a musical — and, yes, I know it’s painful. But we do of course have “Fiorello!,” the 1959 musical about the long-serving, corruption-fighting New York mayor whose surname adorns the most reviled airport in the country. The show, with an infectious score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, and a rather complicated book by Jerome Weidman and the musical’s original director, George Abbott, has been featured not once but twice as part of the City Center Encores! musicals-in-concert series, the only show to have been so honored.
But fully staged productions are rare, which may explain why the Berkshire Theater Group took the enterprising step of moving its small-scale production, seen over the summer, to Off Broadway, offering musical theater lovers a chance to see in full what all the fuss was about. (Or practically in full; the book has been trimmed from the original.) For despite its unlikely subject matter, “Fiorello!” was a solid hit when it opened on Broadway, and went on to win both the 1960 Tony Award for best musical and the Pulitzer Prize.