S.F. Theater Review: FIORELLO (42nd Street Moon)

Post image for S.F. Theater Review: FIORELLO (42nd Street Moon)

by Harvey Perr on March 14, 2019

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


The 42nd Street Moon production of Fiorello is just fine, if you allow for the looseness of staging, the clumsy choreography, and the overall sensation that it is primarily a high school production played by adults (this is not a criticism of high school productions, since I’ve seen quite a few which easily rivaled the professional productions they were emulating).

This could have been a golden opportunity to prove that Fiorello is ripe for a major revival, since it was a beloved and honored musical in the 1959-1960 season, winning a Tony for Best Musical (shared with The Sound of Music, both of which beat out the most revived of all musicals, Gypsy) and was also one of the nine musicals in history to win a Pulitzer Prize. In these politically perilous times, it’d be exciting to look back at a time when a pro-FDR liberal Republican beat out the corrupt Tammany Hall crowd and went on to become one of the most beloved mayors of New York City, and to see that corruption, though on a decidedly more innocent level than what we are experiencing now, has always existed.

Jerome Weidman’s book may creak now and then but it’s still neatly constructed, the music by Jerry Bock is still gloriously captivating and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics still range from the warmly romantic (“…out of the house three minutes and I miss him”) to the wickedly clever (“It’s just a little tin box/A little tin box/That a little tin key unlocks/There is nothing unorthodox/About a little tin box”).

And there are nice performances by Marisa Cozart, Katrina Lauren McGraw, and a chipper Catrina Managan. Unfortunately, Colin Thomson in the title role, though a more than competent actor, seems to erase himself in this company, so that it doesn’t seem to be about Fiorello LaGuardia at all. The best thing about the show in its latest incarnation is how good Chris Vettel is in the role of Ben Marino, the corrupt Republican who stands in LaGuardia’s way. He gives the most persuasive performance and puts over two of the show’s best comic songs, “Politics and Poker” and “A Little Tin Box,” with verve and style. Why he isn’t a matinee idol is probably because we don’t have matinee idols anymore. (Oh yeah, someone should tell that to Hugh Jackman!) Still, given all that, this production doesn’t make clear why a major revival is necessary, and I don’t stand alone in thinking that a major revival is due — if not overdue.

photos by Ben Krantz Studio

42nd Street Moon
Gateway Theatre
215 Jackson St in San Francisco
ends on March 17, 2019
for tickets, call 415.255.8207
or visit 42nd St Moon

Leave a Comment