Book by Jerome Weidman & George Abbott
Music by Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
adapted from real life events, and the book Life With Fiorello, by Ernest Cuneo

INFO:

Opened at the Broadhurst Theater    November 23, 1959    795 performances
Original Director: George Abbott
Original Choreographer: Peter Gennaro
Original Producer: Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince
Original Leads: Fiorello LaGuardia: Tom Bosley    Ben Marino: Howard da Silva     Marie: Patricia Wilson    Thea: Ellen Hanley    Dora: Pat Stanley
Cast Size: Male: 5    Female: 4    Ensemble: 8-8 to 12-12    Total Cast Size: 25-as many as you can do.
Orchestra: 18, can be done with less, even piano/bass/drums.
Published Script: Popular Library, but long out of print. Random House (hardback), ASIN: B005N4XSWU, but again, long out of print.
Production Rights: MTI (Music Theater International)
Recordings: The original cast recording is very strong.
Film: None
Other shows by the authors: Abbott: Many, including Pajama Game, Damn Yankees    Bock and Harnick: Tenderloin, She Loves Me, Fiddler On The Roof, The Apple Tree, The Rothchilds    Wediman: I Can Get It For You Wholesale
Awards: The Pulitzer Prize, the 1960 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actor (Tom Bosley); Best Director (Abbott).

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

Fiorello! Is a unique show. It fit so well into what we call the “golden age” of musicals, from the early 40s through the mid-late 60s, that it won the Pulitzer Prize, only the third musical to accomplish this high honor. (The first was Of Thee I Sing, the second was South Pacific.) That said, as written, it worked better at the time it was authored than it will now. Its subject, Fiorello LaGuardia, was a famed mayor of New York City during the late part of the American Depression, and through WWII. I doubt many people today remember LaGuardia. In 1959, when this show first played Broadway in 1959, LaGuardia had just been out of office for a little more than a decade, and was still beloved (and hated) in NYC. What’s more, and stating the obvious, the production was playing in NYC, where LaGuardia had served. So the timeliness and relevance of the show’s subject today may be seen to be a question mark – but I believe this is a problem that can be solved with relative ease. Just about no one has done this show in a long time, except for the Encores program which takes older and worthy shows and presents them in simplified, concert versions, in early 2013. And they did it in NYC. So this is a very good musical ripe for rediscovery.

Why do I like this show? Why do I recommend it to you? The score was authored by the men who composed the scores for She Loves Me, and Fiddler On The Roof, true masters of the Musical Theater. The score is as interesting as their involvement would suggest, with a few truly funny songs, a great opening number, and some lovely ballads. The script is also by two respected writers of Musical Theater libretti, especially George Abbott, perhaps the most respected writer/director of Broadway fare of his time. In other words, this show comes with a highly-regarded theatrical pedigree. It has many entertaining moments and is, overall, a rewarding experience. Aspects of the show dealing with politics are as timely today as they were in the late 1950s, and will always be timely. I think this show could be done with real success today.

Who should do this show? Let’s assume that some of the more dated material will be edited (as I am going to suggest), rendering the show more timely than it would otherwise be. It is filled with character roles, written for actors first and singers second. This makes it relatively easy to cast, for a musical. It generally uses many sets which would raise its cost, but I’m going to suggest other ways to do the sets that will keep costs down. It is the sort of score that could be presented with a limited orchestration, again making it less expensive and more easily produced. So Fiorello! is flexible as to presentation, and is more producible than many lesser shows.

Fiorello! would work well at the High School level. Its requirements are not so difficult that a good High School theater program couldn’t do this fun, lovely show. Colleges, Little Theater Groups with larger stages and contingencies of performers, summer stock, semi-pro and pro companies might all consider this show.

Be Warned:

The show feels dated without judicious editing. You must get permission to edit it from the company that owns the rights. I would think that there are so few productions of this show, that they would be thrilled to have people interested.

There are marketing concerns with a show like this. The audience does not remember the show, or the man it’s named for. A Producer will need to find a marketing angle. I would suggest marketing it on the remarkable strength of its authors, as well as its many awards. “By the same writers as Fiddler On The Roof” can’t hurt. Abbott wrote and directed many shows, such as Damn Yankees and Pajama Game, and you can use that to promote as well. You could promote is as “the best classic American Musical you never heard of…”

As to production values, the cast is large. Groups with limited ability to put together a lot of actors (preferably of mature age unless you’re doing a High School or college production) probably should not do this show. If you have a very small stage, it will be problematic – but not impossible, as I’m going to discuss. There are some choreographic needs, though this is not a dance show. If you are not equipped to do any musical, really, this would not be a good musical to be your first. Go with a smaller, simpler show.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: An Overture plays, and then the mayor of New York City, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, speaks via radio, and starts to tell his history. (I would suggest cutting this prologue, as you’ll see below.)

Before WWI, we are in LaGuardia’s law offices. He is running his well-meaning staff to exhaustion, taking care of the poor and weak with pro-bono cases. His staff love him and hate him at the same time. (“On The Side of the Angels”) He will do anything to help the people of his neighborhood, and takes few paid cases. His long-suffering secretary, Marie, has long been in love with LaGuardia, and though he’s fond of her, he seems unaware. A friend of Marie’s, Dora, enters the office. She and her fellow workers of the Waistmaker’s Union are on strike, and one of their leaders has been arrested. As they are all women, the woman arrested, Thea, a model, has been taken in for solicitation, a lie. Dora is here to beg LaGuardia to step in as an attorney. LaGuardia is a firebrand, idealistic and intelligent, and he decides to assist the ladies. He also asks Marie to use her friendship with Ben Marino, a Republican political operative, to get him a meeting. LaGuardia wants to run for office.

Ben is “in a meeting” with his political cronies, feverishly planning for the future. In other words, they’re playing poker and discussing where they’ll find some one stupid enough to run for Congress in a district the Republicans always lose. (“Politics and Poker”, a great comic number about politics and card games, and their similarities.) Marie interrupts the game, and asks Ben to meet with Fiorello…who follows her into the room. He demands they run him, and more than implies that Ben and his pals are not very good at what they do. LaGuardia insists he can win, which all the others in the room think is insane. Having nothing to lose, Ban agrees to run LaGuardia.

At the scene of the Waistmaker’s strike. The women of the union meekly sing their complaints for the foul treatment they receive from management. (“Unfair”) They are heckled by paid strike-breakers, and the women are not doing well at all. The ladies are further harassed by the local cop, Floyd, who is paid off (as is the police department) by those in power. Dora and Floyd have a confrontation, and it’s clearly love/hate for them. The heckling turns ugly, and that’s when LaGuardia arrives. Making it clear he’s a lawyer and there to represent the union strikers, he immediately unsettles Floyd and the hecklers. They weren’t expecting a lawyer. Marie expresses her admiration for LaGuardia, and he is, indeed, courageous, if not foolhardy. Fiorello asks her to dinner. He stammers an explanation about why it took so long to ask her out…employee/employer relations and such…but Marie simply accepts and head back to the office. The arrested model and the leader of the strike, Thea, arrives at the scene of the strike, released thanks to LaGuardia’s machinations. Alone with him, she asks LaGuardia if they can win. She is beautiful, and he is struck instantly by her. The two understand they can help each other. He can help win their strike, the union can help him win his election in the 14th Congressional District. They are both Italian, and fervently believe that the Italian city of Trieste must be freed from Austrian occupation. In short, they are meant to be. Eager to have time with her, Fiorello invites Thea to dinner that night, and she instantly accepts. Marie is forgotten. With that, LaGuardia whips the striking ladies up to a furious frenzy, singing “Unfair” at the top of their voices. The strike is really on.

At the office, Marie and Morris, a weary and disgruntled associate who will never quit LaGuardia, even if it means his wife and kids have forgotten what he looks like, do the work of the office. Fiorello calls and lets Marie know that he will be working on the strike with the ladies, and will have to beg off their date. With Morris, Marie lets out her frustration, wishing she could write laws that would make bachelorhood and standing up a woman on a date illegal, with severe penalties. (“Marie’s Law”)

A street corner. The campaign for election begins, and LaGuardia takes it to the people, who receive his tremendous energy and commitment with enthusiasm. (“The Name’s LaGuardia”) The election takes place. At Ben’s club, he and his cronies are stunned. “The Bum Won”! They did nothing to support him and figure they’d better get on his good side, quick.

A Greenwich Village tenement roof, a table. Dora and Floyd have a surreptitious tryst. Floyd dislikes LaGuardia, as he’s in the pocket of big business and the Democratic establishment. He’s convinced that LaGuardia is making so many enemies with his idealistic grandstanding that he will never be elected again. He makes a pass at Dora, who is clearly interested but retains her honor. Frustrated, he departs as Marie joins Dora. Dora admits that the worst possible thing has happened to her. (“I Love A Cop”, a very funny number.) Marie almost confesses to Dora her own love for LaGuardia, but keeps it to herself. Marie has been asked by Ben Marino to go to Washington and try to get LaGuardia to calm his rhetoric down, since LaGuardia is loudly supporting the U.S. Entering WWI, and demanding a draft. (History would prove him right, but his position was unpopular at the time.) Marie doubts that she or anyone can “control” LaGuardia.

In Washington, a Senator tries to put the breaks on LaGuardia’s support for WWI, and is rebuffed by Fiorello in no uncertain terms. Marie and Ben arrive, and Ben is furious. He asks LaGuardia how he’d feel about a draft if they started with Congressmen. Fiorello informs him that he can stop wondering – he enlisted that morning.

On a street in NYC, a big party in planned to send off Fiorello, and Dora is working it as Floyd makes yet another pass. She agrees to have an affair with him if he’ll behave himself at the party, and he’s is thrilled. He feels demeaned because he was refused by the draftboard. Like most cops, Floyd is a flat foot, and flat feet at that time kept you out of the military. Dora doesn’t care and lets him know how she feels. (“I Love A Cop” reprise) Marie speaks to Morris and expresses her concern that she may never see LaGuardia again. Thea and LaGuardia enter and, left alone, he asks her to marry him. He says he will personally free Trieste for her. She’s not sure that an Italian Catholic girl should wed an Italian Jewish Episcopalian. They are about to embrace when Morris sticks his head in to accompany LaGuardia to his send-off. Fiorello thanks Marie for all her help and support, unsuspecting. Ben Makes a farewell speech, and Thea sings as everyone dances. The U.S. Is in the war. (“Till Tomorrow”, a simple, beautiful waltz.)

On a movie screen, we see footage from WWI, and LaGuardia in newsreels, who becomes a war hero as a flier. Trieste is won back for Italy. Armistice (the end of the war) is declared. LaGuardia goes “Home Again,” with all the other surviving armed forces, and Thea joyfully agrees to marry him.

ACT TWO: The LaGuardia home, ten years later. Fiorello and Thea are happily married. Ben calls to ask LaGuardia to stop preaching about his war record, now a decade old, as he runs against the current and very corrupt mayor of NYC, James (Jimmy, or J.J.) Walker, and his thugs who make up what’s known as Tammany Hall. The campaign is just starting. Dora arrives, married now to Floyd who, in with the Tammany people, keeps receiving promotions. Dora loves her life, meeting important people with Floyd, her important husband. Thea appears to be tired, and is ill. (It turns out to be tuberculosis.) Fiorello runs off to campaign, and Thea adoringly wonders “When Did I Fall In Love.”

Floyd and Dora’s penthouse home, where Floyd is to host a campaign rally/party for Walker. A famed showgirl practices her jiggly number, “Gentleman Jimmy.” Floyd’s new friends, mafia types, discuss a plan they have to take care of LaGuardia. At LaGuardia’s law office, Morris is on the phone trying to mollify his wife, who claims the family has forgotten what he looks like. But the office is jammed with free cases, and there’s a campaign. Fiorello attacks in the press a crooked politician named Marconi while Ben observes. When Ben makes suggestions to LaGuardia on how to run, LaGuardia ignores him coolly, seeing the man as a hack. (He isn’t.) Ben lets him have a piece of his mind and Fiorello angrily kicks him out. Dora has overheard a plan to murder Fiorello at a public speech he will soon be making, by dropping bricks on his head from a nearby rooftop while the cops are called away by a false fire alarm. She feels she is betraying Floyd, but that she owes something to LaGuardia for all his help during the strike. Marie privately informs Fiorello…and he’s thrilled. He feels they must be truly afraid of him to try something so desperate, and he deploys his two trusted assistants, Morris and Neil, to stop the fire alarm from ringing and the bricks from falling on his head.

LaGuardia is making his speech on a nearby street, when Neil encounters the man who is to set off the fire alarm. He temporarily scares the man off, but Morris shows up, not where he is supposed to be, and tells Morris that Mrs. LaGuardia (Thea) passed away an hour ago, and Fiorello does not yet know. They hurry away…and the crooks come out and set off the fire alarm. At the office, Marie handles phone calls when Morris and Neil hurry in. The bricks fell, and just missed LaGuardia! Fiorello enters,furious at the failure of Neil and Morris. It’s then that he discovers his wife has passed away, and he quickly departs. Marie also discovers this, and alone, sits in the office, contemplating her life.

Exactly as Ben had predicted, LaGuardia loses the election to Walker in a landslide. Fiorello picks himself up from his two loses and dreams of a better future. At Ben’s club, he and his hacks smoke cigars ruefully jest about the fact that Walker and his buddies seem to be mysteriously able to buy big houses and remarkable perks, on very small salaries. (“Little Tin Box”, perhaps the best comic number ever written about politics.) Caught, Walker and his boys are being removed from office, and there’s now a chance. A plan is made to combine a Republican candidate with some Democrats in his administration, to replace Walker. And the selected candidate is a man with broad support amongst both parties…LaGuardia. Marie is on hand as they discuss it, and Ben makes it clear he won’t support a candidate who doesn’t appreciate him. (LaGuardia doesn’t know that the powers that be are going to ask him to run, and Marie fears he’ll turn them down.) Ben wonders that Marie sticks with such an ingrate. Ben excuses himself a moment, as Morris has also arrived to try to talk Ben into meeting with LaGuardia. She informs Morris that she is determined to get married, now, to any man that will have her. (“The Very Next Man”, a lot like “Marry The Man Today” in Guys And Dolls, which is also in the same “slot” in its show as the last real number.) Still, she begs Ben to go to LaGuardia, who has too much pride to call on Ben.

Fiorello’s office. LaGuardia is furious, the courts are refusing to hear cases he’s involved in, manipulated by the Tammany Hall thugs. Marie suggests he should run again, but feeling he was rejected soundly by the people, he is unwilling. Then, Ben shows up…expecting LaGuardia to just throw him out. He tells LaGuardia that he’s there to help with his next campaign, and LaGuardia points out there is no such campaign. It’s at that moment that the Judge who is making the decision calls LaGuardia’s office and asks him to head a fusion ticket of Republicans and Democrats, to replace Walker. Stunned, Fiorello warns Ben that his “chief qualification for Mayor…is my monumental ingratitude.” In private, Fiorello angrily asks Marie if she asked Ben over to talk him into running, and points out that he’s his own man. Then, he fires her. She’s stunned, but he explains. He can’t court an employee. He suggests that she could learn to love him, and she points out in song that she’s had lots of time and practice…even as the name “LaGuardia” fills the streets of NYC with new hope. (“The Name’s LaGuardia/Finale”)

THE SONGS:

“On The Side of the Angels”; “Politics and Poker”; “Unfair”; “Marie’s Law”; “The Name’s Laguardia”; “The Bum Won”; “I Love A Cop”; “Till Tomorrow”; “Home Again”; “When Did I Fall In Love”; “Gentleman Jimmy”; “Little Tin Box”; “The Very Next Man”; “Finale”

Hits include “Politics and Poker”; “Till Tomorrow”; “Little Tin Box”.

MY OPINIONS:

As always, feel free to skip or ignore my opinions and rating.  Of course, if you’ve ever been stuck at LaGuardia (airport), you know what that can be like…

I really like this show. I love most of the score, and admire most of the book. (That is not faint praise.) It’s very funny, tells a compelling story (more than most musicals), and is certainly entertaining. This is a show that clearly deserves more productions. That said, it does need some minor editing, though really, not very much. I would suggest the following edits to lose some of its more dated or questionable elements:

-The Prologue, with Fiorello doing his version of a “fireside chat,” something modern audiences will not understand. His speech includes references that are dated as well. Just lose the entire prologue and open with Scene One, in Laguardia’s law offices. You might replace this, instead, with newsreel footage from the time, showing the Depression, and talking about corruption in NYC’s government. That would be a better start for this show today. The audience will be benefited in their enjoyment of the show by a simple history lesson along these lines.

- References to “the little wop”, which a contemporary audience will not find amusing.

-Your most complicated problem will be in Scene Five, the number “The Name’s Laguardia”. You cannot simply remove the number, it’s the biggest and most aggressive number in the first act. But I would certainly considering editing the number. I would remove (if so permitted) the potentially embarrassing multilingual sections where he sings to Italians and then Jews in their own tongue, unless your Laguardia can do this very convincingly. If he can do so, then try the number out and see if you can generate some excitement with it. But do not let it become a sad trial for the actor’s linguistic skills (or lack thereof). That’s it for edits, it really is minor.

There is another interesting difficulty presented by the show, but you may see it as a strength. Laguardia is seen as a career politician and a bit of a heartless user of others. This is balanced by his idealism, and his selfless assistance to the poor in his neighborhood, as well as his war record. This actually makes Laguardia a bit of a modern “anti-hero,” and could provide the show a more modern sheen.

The score to the show is simply wonderful. Almost every song is memorable, fun, dynamic. It’s pretty easy to cast your leads, the vocal requirements are nowhere near as intense as most other shows. No male lead needs to sing brilliantly. The book is generally effective, something that cannot be bragged about far too many musicals, I’m afraid. It is a Musical Comedy, and requires a strong Directorial hand to keep the proceedings briskly moving, a trait Mr. Abbott, the original Director as well as co-librettist, was famous for. The characters are well-developed, more so than in most musicals, with plenty of rewarding acting roles for actors to tackle. In short, this is a potential hit for the right theater group, and a delightful and rewarding piece to tackle…with minor and careful edits. If I had a theater company with a fairly large group of character actors and two-three leading ladies looking for good roles, I would certainly consider Fiorello!

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:
Bock’s music is, as always, melodically rich and rhythmically somewhat simple. Your audience will walk out humming these songs, and your actors will pick them up quickly. The score does not represent a great challenge to your musicians, and would accordingly work well with student orchestras. You could go full orchestra. But the show will work with piano/bass/drums. Vocal needs:

Fiorello is a character role. The actor must carry a tune, but as is true of numerous shows at that time such as Music Man, My Fair Lady and Camelot, the male lead was written for a strong actor first, and a fair singer who will not stop acting when he sings. Van be played by a tenor, or a lyric baritone with some upper notes.

Marie is a mature ingenue (she’s still waiting for her man), and a fairly legit theatrical soprano. Should have a lovely voice. Some belting required, but mostly soprano quality.

Ben is a mature comic actor with a character voice, and a baritone range. Acting first, he just has to be able to carry a tune and do simple harmonizing.

Dora is an ingenue and a soprano capable of a belt.

Morris is a mature actor, and like the other male leads, acting comes first. Must be a baritone capable of carrying a tune.

Thea (Laguardia’s first wife) should be a clean soprano with good top notes.

Neil is a youngish tenor who should sing decently well, but should not have a “legit” voice.

Mitzi is a blonde bombshell and a showgirl with a soprano belt voice.

The ensemble should sing well enough, but again, the vocal demands are small compared to almost any other large musical. Focus on casting character types who harmonize decently.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:
This is not a “dance show,” though there are a few numbers that would benefit from a choreographer. “The Name’s LaGuardia” in act one is a company number that must focus on the candidate, but brim with excitement. Act Two also has a single dance piece, done by showgirls, “Gentleman Jimmy.” “Till Tomorrow” is a company ballad, and it calls for some slow dancing and romantic WWII imagery, as does “Home Again,” celebrating the end of the war at the end of act one. Those are the only numbers that require any dance, and even they don’t need a lot.

There are character numbers with smaller groups of actors that need to be comic and well-defined in terms of movement. If your Director is comfortable placing comic but simple movement on a number, you will not need choreographic assistance for these numbers which include “On The Side of the Angels”; “Politics and Poker”; “The Bum Won”; and “Little Tin Box.”

This is definitely a Musical Comedy with the emphasis on comedy and romance, but the show does have some serious political edginess that could inform the movement. A choreographer should be acquainted with dances of LaGuardia’s time before tackling the show, and should have a good understanding of the needs of classic Musical Comedy. That said, this show does not represent much of a challenge to a choreographer or a company’s dance skills.

CASTING CONCERNS:
Excluding Marie and Thea, your lead actors should be actors first, singers second. They should move decently, but do not need to be dancers. In some ways, Fiorello! feels almost like what used to be called a “play with music,” rather than a musical. But it is a Musical Comedy, and your actors do need to sing well enough.

Fiorello goes from a vital, curmudgeonly, brilliant and idealistic young-ish man to a frustrated, rejected, but still idealistic middle-aged man. You can age him with make-up during Intermission, but the actor must be able to pass this test. The actual LaGuardia was very energetic, a bulldog-looking man, and his name in Italian means “Little Flower.” Here’s a picture of the actual man as we would have looked delivering the Prologue speech (I’m asking you to cut) on radio.

He is still recalled as one of the few truly great mayors in history, and helped NYC through the depression. He was short, five feet tall, and your actor will need to be on the short side as well, with some sort of physical resemblance to the man. He is driven by a need to be right and be in charge, by his sense of idealism, and by a genuine concern for the well-being of people he feels he can help. He is fearless, but not always wise. His endless drive does not allow him much time or energy for warm relationships, and he is not kind to those who are close to him and who work hardest on his behalf. He expects others to selflessly give of themselves just as he does, and since he expects it, he doesn’t see why their sacrifices require any sort of appreciation in return. And yet, they love him and would mountains on his behalf. He is by most definitions an extraordinary and good man, willing to take on any battle if it’s for the right, but easily hurt when rejected. A strong actor is needed with an open expression of emotion, particularly enthusiasm and anger. But he ties up in knots when it comes to love, and does not know what to say or do, which makes him more endearing than perhaps the character deserves.

Marie also ages from a young woman to her 30s, the whole while in love. You’ll need a fair actress who can age believably, but Marie must sing well, and that will need to come first. The character is endlessly loyal to those she loves, which she does freely. An interesting relationship in the show is that of Marie and Morris, her fellow office denizen and confidant. He’s a married man, and she clearly feels safe enough with him to unveil her secret desire for LaGuardia, as she does repeatedly. Without those encounters, we would not know what she thinks or feels, and I’m sure that’s one reason his character exists. She should be reasonably attractive, so we understand why Fiorello finally is drawn to her, but not so vah-vah-vah-voom that men drop dead in her tracks, or someone would have stolen her away long ago.

Thea is a model, a beautiful if fragile young woman. She also ages ten years during Intermission, and as she is dying of TB, she becomes paler, more fragile. (PLEASE avoid the stereotypical coughing fits to signify she has TB, the show itself doesn’t refer to the illness and for good reason. I provide this info to the Director as useful.) She, like LaGuardia, is of Italian descent, though he is also half-Jewish (his mother’s side, which technically makes him Jewish, though he was not). She is drawn to their commonality, their fire for causes, and his good and eager heart. She is surprised though, years later, to discover that she actually is in love with this man. She did not marry him out of love, but rather, out of admiration. This tells you that she is idealistic, perhaps to a fault.

Ben is a weary, middle-aged, smart political operative who has seen everything. He is a work-a-day kind of man, moderately industrious, but unwilling to expend more energy than he must. Ben enjoys poker and cigars, and backrooms where deals are made. He is able and willing to swallow a lot of degradation and ingratitude to see his political party in power, and I mean a lot. But there is a limit for the man, beyond which he feels degraded, and perhaps inefficient or incapable. A strong actor’s role for a comic character actor with intelligence and fire.

Morris is one of those men who is old even when he’s young. The glass, as he sees it, is at least half-empty, and what’s in it is probably not drinkable. A man destined for a boring married life with kids and a wife who barely knows him, he harbors a secret, undeniable and for him, uncomfortable passion for doing the right thing. He wishes this was not the case, for then, he could walk away from LaGuardia and all the trouble the man represents. Probably reasonably homely, he is not a threat to Marie (or any woman), and so is safe to talk to about the most private things. He does not see himself as unusual or extraordinary in any way, but his sense of right and wrong, and his loyalty make him unique indeed.

Dora is a sweet, none-too-bright, ambitious young lady (who ages during Intermission). Attractive without being a knock-out, a girl who is somewhat streetwise and with a touch of the common. She must have a sense of right and wrong which she suppresses at need…to the point where we wonder if she will go behind Floyd’s back to warn LaGuardia of the attempt on his life. At heart, a good person who just wants to have fun and a good life.

Floyd is a youngish and manly cop (who ages during Intermission), none-too-bright, dogmatic, a yes man who follows the party line and expects to be rewarded. He sincerely loves Dora, though, his one redeeming quality. Cast a comic actor with some innate likeability or the audience will really hate this character.

Neil is perpetually young (Morris’ opposite), and openly idealistic. Probably a fairly frail man prone to fear of physical encounters, yet he puts himself in the line of fire to protect LaGuardia when his life is threatened. He and Morris should be Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy (but not quiet so extreme).

Mitzi is a dumb blonde showgirl with a big voice and other large attributes, plain and simple. Double in ensemble.

The ensemble must be able to play politicians, political hack operatives, striking union girls, the various ethnicities found in NYC, and even a senator or two. Cast types, and make a good list of roles they must fill, or you will get into trouble.

SETS:
The sets include Fiorello’s office, where much of the action takes place. This would require an inner, private office and a larger outer office. The back rooms where Ben and his hack cronies meet, and I’d stick to a single set for these. Various city streets in NYC. A Congressional office in Washington. A rooftop where Dora sets up a romantic atmosphere. Dora and Floyd’s expensive apartment after the Intermission. LaGuardia’s apartment, the one shared with Thea after Intermission. Yes, this is a lot of sets. They need to look and feel like the 20s and 30s, generally, in NYC.

I think your main stage should house LaGuardia’s office. With a proscenium stage, you should play street scenes generally in 1. The exception would be the scene where the company sings and dances “The Name’s LaGuardia,” as this will require a lot of space. Perhaps in a corner of the stage, behind a scrim, or open and ignored when not used, place a table, chairs, all wood and of the period, for Ben and his cronies to play out their scenes. Isolate their area with light. You could use a scrim, but I wouldn’t. Backdrops won’t work for the office scenes and Ben’s scenes, there’s too much furniture to move around. In fact, getting rid of the office at all will be a trial, with desks and such, and you probably will need to do this to free the stage for “The Name’s LaGuardia”, and “Till Tomorrow”/”Home Again”.

The show presents logistical problems so far as sets are concerned. A unit set is not likely to work for a show like this, one with a historical base and a lot of locations. Scene by scene, they break down this way: ACT ONE -The office, Ben’s backroom, a street, Office, Street (large one), Rooftop of tenement, Office, street, Ben’s. ACT TWO – LaGuardia’s apartment, a penthouse apartment, office, street, office, street, Ben’s, office. In looking this over, the easiest way to do the show, overall, would probably be to have a permanent set for the office and Ben’s backroom scenes, to play street scenes overall in front of a drop or on the apron, and apartments behind the main drape but with a drop at the mid-stage point hiding the office/Ben sets. You will want the action to move along without stopping for set changes. These must be fluid, soundless and nearly instant. Perhaps you could make the two apartments that start off Act Two a single split set, one plain but cozy, the other opulent. One drop then could raise, some furniture be removed quickly, and you’d have the office.

This show requires flies and wings, I suspect, to do well. You’ll need a crew that is well-drilled on the various set changes. You could get the Director to choreograph moving furniture, lamp posts and the like as a part of the transitional action at the end of scenes, to help out. You will doubtless be constructing sets, so you’ll need an appropriate crew. This is a fairly large job, start design work early and work closely with your Director to get the traffic problems rights as far as set changes are concerned.

COSTUMES:
The first act is pre-WWI NYC, and the costumes should reflect this. LaGuardia is a lawyer, and those in his law office might be rumpled, but nicely dressed. He wears suits. The ladies wear dresses throughout the show. Street people include immigrants dressed accordingly, working people, etc.

Floyd changes as he moves up the food chain, from a cop circa 1916 or so, to an influential man throwing a big party for party bosses in his expensive penthouse. His change of costuming, along with Dora’s, reflects the changing period of time as well as their social status.

Mitzi and her girls singing “Gentleman Jimmy” need creative and showy showgirl costumes.

LaGuardia could make the closing speech in Act One in his military uniform.

There will be a lot of costumes. Shoes, hats, scarves, purses, gloves and the like will need to be right. Start this part of your job early, you have a lot to do. The good thing, not much dance, and the singing requirements are not extraordinary, so you won’t need to compensate much to accommodate these needs.

PROPS:
Typewriters, phones, notepads, pens, all appropriate to the period. (And the period changes for Act Two, jumping ten years.) Ben’s guys need cards, money, snacks. They smoke cigars, which will be rough with today’s laws. You may need to skip that, but those rooms where political decisions were (and are) made are not called “smoke-filled” for nothing. This is not an overwhelming job for this show, but because the props must be period-correct, start early.

LIGHTING:
This show is Musical Comedy with a bit of an edge. Numbers should be brightly lit as a rule. Cigar smoke will make interesting texture to light Ben’s scenes through, plan on it if you’re using cigars or a substitute. The scene with the fire alarm on the street should be shadowed, a dark corner, implying things unseen. You might use a follow spot for solos and duets like “When Did I Fall In Love,” “Marie’s Law,” and “The Very Next Man.” You may require a follow spot as Fiorello dances and sings through the street crowds during “The Name’s LaGuardia.”

MAKE-UP:
Period make-up, and it changes at Intermission, jumping from 1918 to 1928 or so. You will want to age the main characters ten years at Intermission, so that will be a busy time for you. Get enough crew to accomplish this. Get the hair right for the periods! Some of your lead women may need wigs to show the change in period.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):
Director, Set Designer, Stage Manager, Costume Designer, Fiorello, Ben, Marie, Morris.

MY THOUGHTS:
My own reaction to this show is unusual for me. As a young man, I would have loved to do this show, direct it, play LaGuardia. In reading it now, my first response was disappointment. It wasn’t as wonderful as I thought. Then I read it again, listened to the score, and once again changed my mind. It is pretty much as wonderful as I thought! But it presents some problems. In a technical level, it’s not an inexpensive show, and the set requirements might be daunting. The edits I suggested help the show work better for an audience today. There is a slight musty feel to the show which a good Director will need to dispel by involving the audience in the contemporary sense of politics, and the character’s travails. But this can be done.

The show could feel episodic without a strong director. It will be important to focus on the characters and their development. Unfortunately, Fiorello and Marie don’t actually change much, and your actors are going to need to create some of the needed stakes and character growth without a lot of help from the book. That said, these problems can also be addressed by a good Director and talented cast who will focus on the human qualities of the characters. This is a very worthwhile show, waiting for a spectacular resurrection.