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Fiorello!

A Musical in 2 Acts, a Prologue and 19 Scenes. Music by Jerry Bock: Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick: Book by George Abbot and Jerome Weidman

Broadhurst Theatre 23 November, 1959 (796 perfs) Pulitzer prize winner 1959
Piccadilly Theatre, London - 8 October, 1962

Based on the true story of Fiorello LaGuardia, the aggressive, extrovert US Congressman and Mayor of New York.

Story

Fiorello, (Little Flower) is the short, dumpy, gruff-voiced, dynamic, colourful, provocative and yet thoroughly honest politician that was Fiorello LaGuardia. Elected Mayor of New York, Fiorello was an unconventional politician as shown by the opening of the show which has him reading the comics to the children into a microphone of the city radio station. The newspapers are on strike and the mayor doesn't want the children to be deprived of their favourite comics.

LaGuardia practises law. His clients are, for the most part poor and oppressed - in fact, anyone unable to pay their bills. Seeing wrongs that needed righting LaGuardia announced that he intends to run for Congress with the approval of Ben Marino, Republican leader of the 14th Congressional district. That no Republican has ever been voted into office from this district daunts him not at all.

Ben Marino knows that LaGuardia stands no chance of being elected so goes along with idea. His little nefarious activities will not be affected. Fiorello joins the workers of Nifty Shirtwaists, who are on strike, and convinces them to desert their picket lines and join him at his headquarters to discuss election tactics. There he gives a rousing lecture on the deplorable social conditions of the city among the working classes - sweat shop labour, tyrannical bosses, long hours, low wages, etc. He promises them legal backing should their protests result in arrest.

Running for office, LaGuardia pursues a vigorous campaign by going to all the different ethnic groups that make up the city. He speaks to them in their own language so they are left in no doubt of his resolve to better their conditions. He succeeds in creating an electoral upset when he becomes the first Republican the district has ever sent to Washington.

Whilst in Washington, he becomes an active supporter of the "draft act" (this being the time of World War I). To him, the draft is the only way to build an army in a democracy. The Draft Act is passed and Fiorello promptly enlists..

In a series of montages, staged and on film, Fiorello's wartime career is reviewed.

Ten years pass. Fiorello is married to Thea who is seriously ill. He is still a political reformer and decides to run for mayor against the current incumbent, James J. Walker. His mission is to clean up the city of free-loaders and political opportunists. Walker attempts to have Fiorello killed but somehow LaGuardia manages to survive. Tragedy strikes in that his wife dies.

His efforts to loosen, once and for all, the stranglehold that corruption has on the city finally wins him the mayoral ticket and he gets elected. He is true to his ideals and destroys the political chicanery and corruption wherever he finds it. One ambition realised he fulfils another - he marries his long time secretary, Maria, who had been in love with him for many years.

Principal Characters:

Cast

Musical Numbers

  1. On the Side of the Angels - Neil, Morris, Marie
  2. Politics and Poker - Ben, Politicians
  3. Unfair - Fiorello, Dora, Girls
  4. Marie's Law - Marie, Morris
  5. The Name's LaGuardia - Fiorello, Company
  6. The Bum Won - Ben, Politicians
  7. I Love a Cop - Dora
  8. I Love a Cop (reprise) - Dora, Floyd
  9. Till Tomorrow - Thea, Company
  10. Home Again - Company
  11. When Did I Fall in Love - Thea
  12. Gentleman Jimmy - Mitzi, Dancing Girls
  13. Gentleman Jimmy (reprise) - Company
  14. Little Tin Box - Ben, Politicians
  15. The Very Next Man - Marie
  16. Politics and Poker (reprise) - Ben, Politicians
  17. The Very Next Man (reprise) - Marie
  18. Finale - The Name's LaGuardia (reprise) - Politicians

Scenes and Settings

Act 1

Act 2