All Over the “Rainbow”

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Don’t miss the Harlem Repertory Theatre’s take on two musical classics by Aurea Gonzalez

People are so caught up in musicals like The Lion King and Wicked that they forget that Broadway isn’t the only place with great actors, great dance numbers, and compelling story lines. Broadway and even Off-Broadway shows get enough press and make enough money to provide plenty of entertainment for New York City, but what about smaller companies Off-Off Broadway?

The Harlem Repertory Theatre’s Finian’s Rainbow/Flahooley offers a shining example of the best of Off-Off Broadway. Director Keith Lee Grant split the plays into Act One and Act Two and used a black box theater to showcase his creativity and talented cast. The small space was filled with amazing bird-singing voices, laughter, and even a few tears.

Both shows incorporated amazing choreography, using  environmental theater to keep the audience members engaged, while awakening the imagination with digital technology. In Finian’s Rainbow, a leprechaun grows as he becomes mortal, the transformation depicted using puppets and animation via projector. Rainbows were cast on the black wall as actress Aili Venho who plays Sharon McLonergan sang ‘Look to the Rainbow.’ The version of Finian’s Rainbow, with its themes of overcoming racial barriers and becoming wealthy ends with true love being the greatest wealth of all. The fantasy elements of a pot of gold and leprechauns combined with witty humor makes this musical enticing overall.

Flahooley uses magic lamps, genies, and talking dolls coming to life to remind the audience of childhood–when we rubbed lamps after watching Disney’s Aladdin and we played with dolls, creating relationships and dialogue. Director Grant does not forget to include audience members of all ages as he incorporates these elements and themes into his show; fantasy for the children, love for the adults, and moral story lines for everyone in between.

Both Finian’s Rainbow and Flahooley showcased the singing and dancing talents of their casts. When Ms. Venho was asked, “How do you keep your voice up while keeping it strong,” she responded, “Mostly tons of practice.” Do not undermine the talents of these individuals just because they have yet to make it to Broadway, as soon enough they will.

Finian’s Rainbow/Flahooley will be playing from now until January 12th  at the Harlem Repertory Theater on 133rd Street, not far from CCNY. For more information, visit the company’s Facebook page.