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“Fiorello!” A Performance to Sing About

Musical production delights audience at Plainview Jewish Center.

It was during the delightful tune “Little Tin Box” near the end of Act II — with the audience clapping and singing along in appreciation — that it dawned on me what a shame there are only four performances of " Clearly, those attending Sunday’s musical production at the enjoyed their two and a half hours.

The Patio Players’ presentation of “Fiorello!” opened last weekend with a Saturday evening performance and Sunday matinee. The final two performances at the Plainview Jewish Center are this Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

“Fiorello!” is based on the life of former New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (played by ), a man resolute in defeating the powerful and crooked Tammany Hall political machine and restoring honest government to the city.

Those who know of LaGuardia primarily because an airport was named for him might be interested to learn that he was also a World War I hero who volunteered to enlist in the Air Force while still serving as a U.S. Congressman. He served five terms before running for mayor.

As the musical illustrated, LaGuardia was all about representing the common man. Before going out to make a stump speech one evening, for example, his first wife “Thea” (played by Megan Ferrante) asked him to wear his freshly pressed suit pants so he would look sharp. But Fiorello balked, saying his constituents on 125th Street would not be so nattily attired, and thus his wrinkled pants would do just fine. His efforts on behalf of organized labor were on display with the striking Nifty Shirtwaist workers, who were subjected to sweatshop labor, tyrannical bosses, long hours and low wages. In the production, Fiorello promises the workers legal backing should their protests result in arrest.

The scene with the striking workers is particularly poignant as the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire is March 25. The fire, which killed 146 people, is credited with galvanizing efforts to reform working conditions in sweatshops.

“Fiorello!” the production is also a touching, human interest story of a passionate man and the two women he loved – “Thea” and the loyal “Marie” (Olivia Breger), his assistant who stayed true to him even after she got “dumped” by Fiorello before their first date.

The musical features bouncy ensemble numbers like “Politics and Poker,” “On the Side of the Angels,” “I Love A Cop” and “Little Tin Box.”

“Fiorello!” has some humorous lines. During a campaign rally before mostly Jewish constituents, a person in the crowd asks why LaGuardia keeps talking about his Italian heritage.

“I hear you’re half Jewish,” the man said.

LaGuardia adroitly responds, “Well, I figure if a man is only half Jewish, it isn’t enough to brag about.”

Despite personal setbacks: the loss of his first wife Thea, who succumbed to tuberculosis at a young age; a 500,000 vote loss to incumbent mayor Jimmy Walker; an attempt on his life by Tammany at a political rally; and a fallout with Morris, his campaign manager, Fiorello never gives up the battle.

True to his character, Fiorello prevails in the end. He wins election to become the 99th mayor in New York City history and marries his long-time assistant, Marie.

Conductor Joe Ferrante, who played the piano, was joined by his pit crew of Rich Liptzin (keyboard/trumpet), Brian Mayor (soprano sax, alto sax, clarinet), Nicole Davidson (flute), Howie Lampert (tenor sax, clarinet), Aron Lampert (clarinet) and Jesse Bloecker (bass).

Tickets are $18. Proceeds benefit the various benevolent and cultural efforts of the Men’s Club of the Plainview Jewish Center, which is located at 95 Floral Drive. For more information, call the Synagogue office at 516-938-8610.

Editor's Note: Plainview Patch Local Editor Joe Dowd performs in the production.

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