Broadway Musical Time Machine: Looking Back at Fiorello!
It’s been a big year for the composing team of Bock and Harnick, with Broadway revivals of their two beloved pieces Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me. The success of both of these revivals speaks to the durability of their work and to their place in the pantheon of musical theatre greats. At one point in time, there was a third Bock and Harnick musical that was as revered as the aforementioned titles, but that has faded somewhat into obscurity today. Fiorello!, which opened on Broadway in 1959, was a big hit, financially and critically. The story of the former NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia played to an audience who had memories of the reform politician who took on Tammany Hall in the early part of the 20th Century.
Now the Berkshire Theatre Group is preparing an Off-Broadway revival of this musical that played on Broadway the one time, but has never been produced there again. Audiences can again delight in this Bock and Harnick score that features such greats as “Politics and Poker”, “I Love A Cop”, “’Til Tomorrow”, and “Little Tin Box”. The question of this revival will not be about the accessibility of its score (It is Bock and Harnick after all), but about how the book holds up. Jerome Weidman and George Abbott crafted a very fluid story that takes us through a whirlwind of the better part of LaGuardia’s career. Much of Abbott’s original staging is still spoken of with great admiration, for its cleverness and its ability to keep the original production flowing. Parts of the script relied on that kind of inventiveness, so will the book be buoyed in a similar way in this forthcoming revival? Time will tell.
Here are some interesting facts about Fiorello!
Fiorello! won the Tony Award for Best Musical in a tie with The Sound of Music. This is the only time that there has been a Best Musical tie in Tony history.
Fiorello! is one of only nine musicals that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Tom Bosley, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the title character, would go on to play Howard Cunningham in the enormously popular sitcom Happy Days. He also went on to play Maurice in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast.
Fiorello! opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 23, 1959 and ran for 795 performances, moving to the Broadway Theatre during the run.