Pictured: Full Company. Photo credit: J. Robert Schraeder/Spinning Tree Theatre.
By Marissa Carter
What can you do with a mostly bare stage, two pianos, and a small group of talented performers? According to Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of FINIAN’S RAINBOW, you can tell a magical story that clearly demonstrates the beauty of diversity.
In the beginning of the story, Finian and his daughter Sharon have just immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland, and find themselves in Rainbow Valley, in the mythical state of Missitucky. Sharon is homesick and ready to return to Ireland, but Finian has a plan that he is certain will assure their future prosperity and happiness. Played by Phil Fiorini, Finian is a delightfully energetic and whimsical character that you can’t help falling in love with. It is easy to get caught up in his optimism and affection for his daughter as he acts on his master plan of burying his stolen leprechaun gold so that it can “grow” into the success and prosperity he dreams of.
Shortly after arriving in Missitucky, Sharon gives a generous gift that leads to her becoming a partial owner of the land in Rainbow Valley — a magical place where people of every color and age work, play and live together in gorgeous harmony.
The pair settle into the valley smoothly, and all seems well for about a minute until greedy Senator Billboard Rawkins (Nathan Dale Short) and Og the leprechaun (Michael DeCoursey) show up. Though Og has a rightful claim to his stolen gold, Senator Rawkins is as selfish and racist as they come. In their own ways, both characters threaten to topple the new-found happiness of Finian and Sharon, and destroy the harmony of Rainbow Valley.
As the synopsis conveys, this play is full of fun fantasy elements and good laughs. It also contains an unexpected amount of deep symbolism and makes excellent observations about race relations and immigration. The story is as relevant today as when it was written in 1947, and some of the lines are delivered in a way that makes you believe it was written just to address the issues we are facing today.
At no point is this production preachy or political, however. In fact, every point is so clearly illustrated in the show itself that it is easy to miss the importance of what was said until later, and they could not have chosen a better cast for the task.
This cast is incredible. Not only are they immensely talented, but they also bring a perfect blend of passion and energy to the stage. On top of that, they are all very different; representing a wide range of ages and skin colors, and each cast member unashamedly brings their own unique voice. The resulting music is so rich and full of personality that I didn’t want it to stop.
Though it is honestly hard to pick favorites, some of the most notable numbers for me are “Look to the Rainbow,” performed in effortless beauty by Elise Poehling, “Necessity,” which becomes a passionate challenge in the hands of Olivia Cabrera, and “The Begat,” which showcases the younger voices in the cast and proves that true talent has no age.
Between the lighthearted story, diverse cast and apropos messages, FINIAN’S RAINBOW not only encourages us to look to the rainbow, but shows us how beautiful that rainbow can be. It is a show that needs to be seen and understood by as many people as possible.
FINIAN’S RAINBOW is playing at the Just Off Broadway Theatre through September 17. Tickets can be purchased online through spinningtreetheatre.com or by calling the Central Ticket Office at (816) 235-6222.