THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Stage Door: Finian's Rainbow, James Barbour, Misalliance

How are things in Glocca Morra? That question is asked nightly at the St. James, where the revival of Finian's Rainbow offers some classic songs, a traditional love story, a leprechaun and a healthy dollop of progressive politics.

The locale is Missitucky, a Southern state where black and white sharecroppers work together and despise the racist politician trying to steal their land. It also houses a feisty Irishman who buries a pot of gold that makes wishes come true. If it all sounds hokey, it is. But it works, for the most part, due to Yip Harburg's lyrics, Burton Lane's music and a strong cast, led by Kate Baldwin, as Sharon, the Irish lass who falls for farm boy Woody (Cheyenne Jackson). Their chemistry sweetens the mix.

There are also wonderful performances by Christopher Fitzgerald as Og, the leprechaun, and Jim Norton as Finian, Sharon's father and eternal optimist, a man forever searching for success over the next hill.

Finian's, which is admittedly dated in style, includes surprisingly relevant themes -- the perils of easy credit, the harsh reality of foreclosures and the dreaded machinations of the G.O.P. Another boon for 1947 -- it turns a corrupt white senator into a black man, in order to teach him humanity. That radical edge is married to a traditional romantic comedy, which means audiences can't help but be charmed by this production.

James Barbour continues the good cheer farther uptown at Bill's 1890s, a cozy, classic venue where he's staging his now annual Christmas concert through Dec. 19. Barbour, a remarkable singer, is known for playing moody leading men in A Tale of Two Cities, Carousel and Jane Eyre. Loaded with personal charm, he connects with his audiences by belting out everything from standard holiday fare, from "White Christmas" to a moving "Silent Night," alongside haunting melodies from Broadway hits.

An added bonus, he performs a musically inspired reading of Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem "The Night Before Christmas, which Moore wrote for his children in 1822 while he lived at 57 East 54th, the building that now houses Bill's. Barbour also invites various Broadway stalwarts -- Meredith Patterson, Kevin Earley, Jessica Rush -- to join him onstage. The evening is a fun way to kick off the season.

For those who prefer tart comedy and social commentary, don't miss the Pearl Theatre Company's superb performance of George Bernard Shaw's Misalliance at City Center, Stage II. Written in 1909, Shaw set his spirited comedy at the country estate of underwear king Mr. Tarleton (Dan Daily). Over the course of a summer's day, the play pits the old Victorian mores, represented by Lord Summerhays (Dominic Custern) and stuffy heir Johnny Tarleton (Bradford Cover), against the Edwardian Age, exemplified by his liberated sister Hypatia Tartleton (Lee Stark), who longs for an adventure to drop out of the sky.

When it does, in the guise of two aviators who smash into the greenhouse, the New Age dawns bright.

Ultimately, staid upper-class life and privilege are challenged by Gunner, a working-class clerk (Sean McNall), and a fabulous Polish aviatrix (Erika Rolfsrud). Her monologue on the New Woman should have audiences cheering. What ensues is a drawing room comedy with genuine depth. The crash, Hypatia's deus ex machina, literally transforms the household, which is in dire need of a shake-up.

Shaw, a man well ahead of his time, delivers delicious digs about love, marriage, sex, parents and children. Misalliance has some zany twists and turns; it is both hugely entertaining and thought-provoking. It should be required viewing for the Radical Right. The pace is lively, the cast is uniformly impressive and Shaw's wit shines throughout.