The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp Berkshire Review

The show is moving to the tiitle character's home town for a month's run at the 13th Street Theater at 136 W. 13th Street. Since this is usually the home of the Classic Stage, the scheduled run beginning 9/04/16, opening 9/09/16 and ending 10/07/16 is unlikely to have a chance to extend, and if so, at the most a week or two. Except for a frew new ensemble member, the Berkshire cast will reprise their roles Off-Broaday.

"My generation has failed miserably. We've failed because of lack of courage and vision. It requires more courage to keep the peace than to go to war." — Fiorello LaGuardia in his last public appearance.
Austin Lombardi as Fiorello. (Photo by Emma Rothenberg-Ware)
In recent decades, the American political scene has become so bizarre, distasteful and uninspiring that it has done more than just upset my peace of mind and confidence in government. It has robbed me of a long held belief that good triumphs over evil - that dragon slayers, big or small, on the side of right, can vanquish devils.

Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947), a three-term Mayor of New York, was one such dragon slayer, and the rise of the "Little Flower" (his affectionate nick-name) from obscurity to powerful leader was a case study in "stick-to-it-righteousness."

When the musical Fiorello!, based on his life in politics, opened in 1960, the malaise with government had not yet begun in earnest and the book for the show by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott seemed less significant than the exuberance of the production. The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical as well as a Pulitzer Prize, due in great part to the rich, eclectic score by Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics).

The Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge, Massachusetts has mounted a lively production of this uniquely New York musical in their intimate Unicorn Theatre. The choice is both welcome and intriguing.

Sixty years later, the book may seem a bit naive and the story line more jumbled and confused than I remembered it, but the name Tammany Hall still registers as the chief villain and Major Jimmy Walker one of the system's hedonistic bad-boys.

But heck, this is a musical not a political rally (thank you God) and the emphasis is happily placed on the music and the romantic triangle between Fiorello (a spirited Austin Lombardi), his first wife Thea (Rebecca Bruder), and his long suffering, love sick assistant Marie (Katie Birenboim.)

Bob Moss, the esteemed founder of Playwrights Horizons in New York, one of my favorite theater destinations, is the director. With help from choreographer Michael Callahan he creates a whirling, bustling canvas of early 20th century life in the melting pot known as NOO YAWK. David Murin's costumes add flavor and zip (especially for some leggy sequined show girls) to the mix.

The cast is made up of young performers associated with the Berkshire Group and they're an able, appealing lot. The absence of any senior actors does shade the dramatics of the story a bit.

Austin Lombardi is a standout as the ambitious, stick of dynamite LaGuardia and Rebecca Bruner as his Italian wife and Katie Birenboim as his love sick political associate contribute strong emotional moments. All three have polished voices. I also enjoyed Rylan Morsbach's rugged political boss and Matt Mclean and Michael Sullivan as loyal Fiorello supporters. The guys in the cast make out best getting to sing both the cynical but funny "Politics and Poker" and "Little Tin Box." Chelsea Groan and Dan Cassin carry off the comedy of the dumb cop (Floyd) and even dumber blonde (Dora – what else) with a thankful minimum of cuteness.

I did wish, however, that the sound man had not miked Groen and Birenboim so much they both came off as shrill—– less of a problem for Groen's flighty character, but definitely a miss for Marie who could use a softer, warmer tone.

Best moments are when the entire cast is singing and dancing to one of the dreamy songs — like "Till Tomorrow" and "Home Again." In the scene where ethic groups are assembled for a LaGuardia rally did I not hear hints of melodies from Bock and Harnick's later masterpiece, Fiddler on the Roof." Yes, I did and so will you.

Search CurtainUp in the box below Back to Curtainup Main Page

Music : Jerry Bock; Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick
Book: Jerome Weidman, GeorgeAbbott
Directed by Bob Moss
Choreography by Michael Callahan
Music direction: Evan Zavada
Cast: Austin Lombardi (Fiorello), Katie Birenboim (Marie), Rylan Morsbach (Ben), Rebecca Brudner (Thea), Matt McLean (Morris), Chelsea Groen (Dora), Dan Cassin (Floyd), Michael Sullivan (Neil), Michael Brahce (Zapatella), Julius Reese (Political Hack) . . . Ensemble: Luis Aguilar, Erika Anclade, Matt Caccamo, Alyssa Haning, Lindsay Ortmeyer, Jenny Popovich, Jamie Walters and Amy Welch.
Scenic design: Carl Sprague
Costume design: David Murin
Lighting design: Matthew E Adelson
Sound design: Brendan F. Doyle
Dialect coach: David Alan Stern
Stage Manager: Shelby North
Musicians: Cindy Ogulnick (violin); Evan Zavada (piano).
Running time: Two hours, twenty minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
Berkshire Theatre Group/Unicorn Theater in Stockbridge, MA
From June 15, 2016 to July 23, 2016
Reviewed by Chesley Plemmons

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Fiorello!
  • I disagree with the review of Fiorello!
  • The review made me eager to see Fiorello!
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted at to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

©Copyright 2016, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from