Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge, MA
Chaos, mayhem, political corruption and fear—it is all here. Of course, we are not talking about 2016, the year of one of America’s most hotly contested elections. No, we are talking about 1934, the year Fiorello LaGuardia became Mayor of New York City with a whole set of goals in mind.
“Fiorello!”, the musical, is a new one to most of us, as it has been in the back closet for several decades, after winning a Tony in 1960, then a Pulitzer. Writers Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick went on to pen “Fiddler on the Roof” and “She Loves Me”. After taking Broadway by storm, "Fiorello!" closed in 1961. It walks you through the life of LaGuardia, using the age-old medium of song and dance.
Despite its age, and a slightly dated feel, it continues to provide great history lessons about Mayor LaGuardia, and his life. It actually spans the existence of his law firm, his service in World War 1, the untimely death of his first wife, and his ultimate rise to power. You will learn in this play things you didn’t know about the man who now has an airport named after him. The story is told in a period-costumed musical, set among a simple but decidedly sufficient stage in the intimate setting of the Unicorn theatre. The costumes here are wonderful.
The true value in this piece, however-- whether you’re into history or not-- is the singing. It is off the charts wonderful. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat through a travelling Broadway tour, scratching my head over the fact that the female singers always outshine the male singers. This happens time and time again. Not here. The talent is as good as any I have seen. Our troupe of actors and actresses makes this a five star Summer extravaganza, a buffet of fine notes. They perform flawlessly. They are better than most traveling shows, delivered in a neat and tightly-wrapped package called the Unicorn theater.
I found one major drawback: It was too long. Longer than long. Waiting for the M Train on a Sunday afternoon long. Waiting for the light to change while your windshield gets squeegeed long. Coming in at nearly 150 minutes with a short intermission, I believe some scenes could have been eliminated.
“Fiorello” fits in as an opening play for what is an exciting election year. It reminds us hotly contested elections have always been a part of the American way of life, and no matter who gets in, you get a second chance a few years later anyway. Still, the wheels of our culture grind on.
But this play also reminds us that you don’t always need to travel to Broadway to see a great show. Little treasures find their way right here, in Stockbridge, at the Unicorn.
--Richard DiMaggio, didyouweekend.com
Book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott
Music by Jerry Bock Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by Bob Moss
Address: Stockbridge, MA, USA