Although it was one of the big hit musicals of the postwar era, "Finian's Rainbow" has not been done much recently, perhaps because its unusual mix of fantasy and outspoken political satire is too jarring for modern sensibilities.
Nevertheless, Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, has taken a flyer on this neglected piece, and, says LD Phil Monat, it has proven to be thoroughly stageworthy.
Gabriel Barre's straightforward production is designed to let the show speak for itself. "The set [by James Youmans] is very simple," says Monat. "It's a very beautiful design. But this is not like "Sweeney Todd" [which the LD did at Goodspeed last year] where you need several full-stage sets."
However, a simple design can mean challenges for an LD. Monat says that Youmans' setting extended out over the orchestra pit, increasing the downstage playing area by about a third. The problem was that there were no lighting positions to allow coverage of this space. "I got them to add a pipe over the extension so the high sidelight and downlights would have some effect down there."
Other unusual obstacles include a revolving mound which remains onstage throughout the play, and an onstage tree which "effectively destroys the stage left diagonal position," adds Monat. As a result, the LD had to place his instruments very carefully to get the needed coverage. The theatre has a total of 72 dimmers. The plot consists of approximately 190 units. "It's a master electrician's nightmare," says Monat, adding, "they have an excellent electrician, Jay Hilton. He's very organized and he makes everything happen."
"Finian's Rainbow" takes place in the mythical Southern state of Missitucky; Youmans' scenery makes use of basic earth tones. "The floor is deep blue, except for green carpet on the mound," says Monat. "The portals are blue with tobacco leaves framing them. The drops are brown and green. It's very Kentucky-looking."
To work with these colors, the LD created his own distinctive palette. "There's a lot of warm lavender," he says. "And there's a lot of golden amber, as well as cool lavender and a lot of pure blue. The cyc is a beautifully painted translucency. On it I use two shades of lavender; two shades of blue; R24, which is scarlet, on the bottom; and the rest is light blues, staying away from red because of the green on the floor." Some green sidelight is also added for specific scenes.
Other aspects of the design include two followspots "which carry a lot of the weight," and the use of templates, particularly some leaf patterns on the tobacco leaves which adorn the portal. The show was run on an ETC Obsession board.