How are things in Glocca Morra? Much more to the point, is there a place on big-ticket Broadway for "Finian's Rainbow," a gentle, modestly produced revival of an odd 1947 musical-comedy/Irish-immigrant/Southern-cracker fable with a strong cast, a doggedly foolish book, a progressive conscience and a songbook of ravishing classics by Yip Harburg and Burton Lane?
Tough call. This is much the same production that enjoyed a celebrated weekend at Encores! last spring, only with the fine orchestra in the pit now instead of onstage. Warren Carlyle, the efficiently conventional director-choreographer, has upgraded a few sweetly homemade magic tricks, several actors are new, and John Lee Beatty's grassy, hilly setting for the fictional segregated state of Missitucky has been expanded in useful, but hardly incandescent, ways.
It is interesting, but not essential, to remember that blacks and whites didn't dance together on Broadway before this show, nor were ethnic stereotypes considered suitable for shuffling satire. Instead of turning the bigoted senator into a black man by putting the same actor in black face, this production neatly makes the switch with a white actor (David Schramm) and a black one (Chuck Cooper).
With her creamy, gleaming soprano and her strapping no-nonsense physicality, Kate Baldwin is again the news of the revival. She plays the daughter of Finian (played as a wise old Irish scamp by the ever-excellent Jim Norton). He has stolen a leprechaun's pot of gold - don't ask - and intends to get rich in America by burying it near Fort Knox. Instead, she gets to sing "Old Devil Moon" with a big handsome prospect, Cheyenne Jackson, whose seething eyes and snarling lips contrast adorably with the soul of a gifted doofus.
The plot does have the eerie relevance of mortgage foreclosures and easy credit. Harburg's lyrics are sly and delicious. Christopher Fitzgerald makes a delightful, increasingly libidinous leprechaun, who courts one woman as "something sort of grandish" and wins the other (Alina Faye as the mute dancer) with the waltz-driven realism of "when I'm not near the girl I love, I love the girl I'm near." Terri White's voice booms "Necessity" as if drawn urgently from the bottom of a dark well. Sweet, but short of grandish.
What "Finian's Rainbow"
Where St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St.
Info $50-$120; 212-239-6200; finiansonbroadway.com
Bottom line very nice-ish, short of grandish