Finian’s Rainbow at the Charing Cross
In the small and intimate setting of Charing Cross Theatre, Finian’s Rainbow gushes an exuberance that is almost harrowing to the sensible mind. The effort and quality of the cast cannot be faulted, but it is their enthusiasm for a plot so unapparent and witless that causes the laughs in this show.
The musical, first written and performed in 1947, ran for 725 performances on Broadway and has since been revived three times. The first attempt at a film came around the early 50s, with a cast including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. There is the sense that this show would have been poignant, gratifying and, of course, actually relevant in these initial productions – something all too undervalued these days – but due to it’s particular themes and style, the delight of this musical is hard to see in our contemporary theatre scene. Sadly, director Phil Willmott and his crew seemed to have missed the mark.
James Horne’s lead role as Finian Mcloneghan (if anybody could be said to have the lead) is as jolly and as dopey as you’d expect from an old Irish grandfather, with Christina Bennington giving a solid and unceremonious performance as his strong-hearted and innocent granddaughter Sharon. The rest of the cast fulfil their roles as overdramatic half-wits of the deep American South, only the authenticity of their inane jolliness is lost due to a lack of focus to background and theme.
Underneath the cloying songs and paint-by-numbers dancing, there is a hint of satire and reference to themes that would have formed the foundations to the humour and appeal of the show in the 40s and 50s. Issues of race and bigotry are walked through instead of expounded into real traumatic issues, and there seems to be a vague metaphorical joke about economics, but what exactly this is is unclear and apparently unimportant. In fact, the flaws of this production of Finian’s Rainbow are grounded in just that – that it is unclear and seemingly unimportant. And what’s more, none of those inane smiles seem to really care.
Finian’s Rainbow is on at the Charing Cross Theatre until 10th May 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Finian’s Rainbow here: