They’re after me Lucky Charms! Well, not quite. But this bonkers, infectiously enjoyable American musical gleefully plunders every Oirish stereotype in sight. Not seen in London since its premiere in 1947, its mad concoction of fantasy and social satire benefits some surprisingly familiar tunes and the sugar-rush of director Phil Willmott’s big-hearted production.
EY Harburg and Fred Saidy’s book is pure moonshine. Irish chancer Finian rocks up in the southern US state of Missitucky (see what they did there?) with his granddaughter Sharon in tow and a crock of gold he’s nabbed from a leprechaun. He plans to plant it near Fort Knox and watch it grow. The pair quickly get involved with the locals and an immigrant-hating senator, the pissed off leprechaun pops up and wishes magically start coming true.
It’s hard to imagine this frothy swirl of sweet nonsense getting off the starting blocks today, which just adds to the fun. It slip-slides all over the place – colliding with cheesy romance, falling messily into farce and getting in some funny lines about racists. Burton Lane’s score, with lyrics by Harburg, is a foot-tapping mix of gospel, Irish folk and old-school show tunes. Guaranteed: you’ll leave the Union humming ‘Old Devil Moon’.
Willmott moves things along at a rollicking pace, not pretending for a second that he’s directing high art. Just when scenes risk falling apart, the talented ensemble cast fill the stage and belt out another catchy number. And Thomas Michael Voss’s choreography is as vibrant as Tom Boucher’s lighting. ‘Finian’s Rainbow’ isn’t gold-standard musical fare. But this highly entertaining production definitely isn’t a pile of crock.