Pulitzer Prize-Winning Fiorello! Returns to City Center Jan. 30; "New" Song Added
By Andrew Gans
Fiorello!, the award-winning Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick musical that launched the City Center Encores! series in 1994, returns Jan. 30-Feb. 3 as the opening musical of the Encores! 20th-anniversary season.
Directed by Gary Griffin with choreography by Alex Sanchez and music direction by Rob Berman, the cast is led by Kate Baldwin, Jeremy Bobb, Ray DeMattis, Erin Dilly, Jenn Gambatese, Adam Heller, Shuler Hensley, Richard Ruiz, Danny Rutigliano (in the title role), Andrew Samonsky, Emily Skinner and Cheryl Stern with Justin Barnette, Meggie Cansler, Christine DiGiallonardo, Yurel Echezarreta, Leah Edwards, Rob Gallagher, Jordan Fife Hunt, Alison Jantzie, Lizzie Klemperer, Kevin Ligon, Lauralyn McClelland, Rebecca Robbins, Adam Rogers, Steve Routman, Tommy Scrivens, Lainie Sakakura, Carly Blake Sebouhian, Nathaniel Stampley and Kevin Vortmann.
The musical, according to press notes, "tells the story of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's rise from an immigrant’s son to the feisty congressman whose guts and determination to fight corruption brought down the crooked Tammany Hall political machine."
This concert production includes a revised musical climax for the title character, written by Bock and Harnick before Bock's death.
"There is a new number," Harnick recently told Playbill.com. "In the second act, there's a moment where LaGuardia's first wife Thea has died, and he has run for the mayor and lost by a lopsided amount, and he's onstage alone…devastated. Jerry Bock and I had tried to write him a song.
"We made a couple of tries at it, and no matter what we wrote, our [original Broadway] director George Abbott said, 'The song is self-pitying, and he was not a self-pitying man,' so eventually we settled on the tiniest of reprises. He sings, 'The name's La Guardia,' spells his name and walks offstage. It was that small. And, about 20 years ago, I saw a production, and I thought, 'We really need a song there,' and it's taken all this time to find a song that wasn't self-pitying.
"Shortly before [composer] Jerry Bock died, I came up with an extended lyric for that reprise and a new lyric in the middle of a monologue. I gave it to Jerry, and he said, 'This I like,' and it was the last thing he set before he died. So we tried it out. There was a production [at] NYU — a wonderful production. We had a chance to try it out there, and it worked. And so we'll be doing it, but with a brand-new orchestration for this production."
Former Congressman Barney Frank will play an outspoken senator who disagrees with LaGuardia's policies in the Feb. 2 evening performance.
As the show begins, according to Encores! notes, "Republican District Leader Ben Marino (Shuler Hensley) hasn't had a winning candidate in years — until Fiorello LaGuardia steps in. LaGuardia (Danny Rutigliano) falls in love with Thea (Kate Baldwin), a feisty union organizer. Thea's best friend Dora (Jenn Gambatese) falls in love with a none-too-smart cop (Jeremy Bobb). And LaGuardia's office manager, Marie (Erin Dilly) has been in love with her boss for years. Mitzi (Emily Skinner) performs for Tammany Hall cronies. Everything changes when LaGuardia runs for congress and wins the election."
Fiorello! has a book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott, music by Bock and lyrics by Harnick. It is one of only eight musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and it also won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Fiorello! opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on Nov. 23, 1959, and ran for 795 performances. It was directed by George Abbott and starred Tom Bosley, Howard Da Silva and Pat Stanley. Songs include "Politics and Poker," "Little Tin Box," "Til Tomorrow" and "When Did I Fall In Love?"
Fiorello! had a brief, 16-performance revival at City Center in 1962. The Encores! production opened in February 1994. It was directed by Walter Bobbie and starred Jerry Zaks, Philip Bosco and Faith Prince. Read Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel's reflection on Fiorello!, an essay that appears in the City Center Playbill.
City Center is located on 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues. Encores! subscriptions and single tickets can be purchased at the New York City Center Box Office (West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues), through CityTix at (212) 581-1212, or online at NYCityCenter.org. Tickets start at $25.
Watch video highlights of the Encores! production of Fiorello!
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