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Golden Rainbow

Revised version of the Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormé Broadway show from 1968 proves to be a small but appealing musical comedy with a terrific jazzy score.

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Max Von Essen and Benjamin Pajak in “Golden Rainbow” at The York Theatre Company at the Theatre at St. Jean’s (Photo credit: Rider R. Foster)

[avatar user=”Victor Gluck” size=”96″ align=”left”] Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief[/avatar]

The 1968 musical Golden Rainbow (the show that gave us the song sensation “I’ve Gotta Be Me”) was so identified with its stars Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormé that it has not been seen in 55 years. When it was suggested to composer/lyricist Walter Marks that he revisit the show, he found it had so much material created specifically for the Lawrences that it was no longer revivable. Instead he has written a new version of the original book by the late Ernest Kinoy (his collaborator on the Broadway musical Bajour) as well as five new songs. The results are a small but appealing musical comedy with a terrific jazzy score as directed and choreographed by Stuart Ross.

Golden Rainbow began as playwright Arnold Schulman’s 1957 Broadway comedy A Hole in the Head which starred Paul Douglas as Sidney, a Jewish hotel manager and widower in Miami Beach who needs his wealthy New York brother to give him a loan of $5,000 to stay open and support himself and his 11-year-old son Ally. The film rights were bought for Frank Sinatra who became Tony Manetta and the family Italian in Schulman’s own screen adaptation. It was a strange role for Sinatra as the character is both abrasive and unsympathetic, not his usual fare. It did, however, have the Cahn and Van Heusen song “High Hopes” which won the Academy Award in 1960 and became a Sinatra standard.

Mara Davi in “Golden Rainbow” at The York Theatre Company at the Theatre at St. Jean’s (Photo credit: Rider R. Foster)

When it was turned into a Broadway musical by Kinoy and Marks, it was transferred to Las Vegas 1968 to allow for showgirls and nightclub scenes. Larry Davis’ hotel previously called The Garden of Eden was now renamed Golden Rainbow. The show also jettisoned the New York brother Max (Mario in the movie) and changed him into sister-in-law Judy Sherman, a Lord and Taylor fashion buyer, who controls the trust fund left for Ally by his grandfather. When Judy is notified by her brother-n-law Larry that Ally is in the hospital and he needs money for doctor bills, the character takes a plane to see for herself and finds independent 11-year-old Ally manning the front desk, just like in the play and in the movie.

But Larry is a dreamer and a bit of a con-artist and he always has a harebrained scheme on the boil which is certain to come through making him millions. This time it is chariot races for the new Tower of Babel Hotel next door being built by an old elementary school friend of his, Mafioso Carmine Malatesta, who he has only just run into after all these years. Will Judy give Larry the $5,000? Will Carmine go into business with Larry? Will Ally end up going to New York City to live a stable life with his aunt? That is the plot of the show. All the problems are answered by the final curtain in a new satisfying conclusion, a problem in both the play and the film version.

Robert Cuccioli and Max Von Essen in “Golden Rainbow” at The York Theatre Company at the Theatre at St. Jean’s (Photo credit: Rider R. Foster)

Max Von Essen has humanized Larry and made him appealing though he is still someone from whom you would not buy a used car. His relationship with Ally played by the charismatic and talented Benjamin Pajak (The Music Man, Oliver!) is quite endearing and even though he never seems to be there for him, he seems to have his best interests at heart. His rendition of “I’ve Gotta Be Me” goes back to the original version before Sammy Davis, Jr., and makes it more of a character song rather than an anthem which works equally well.

Mara Davi’s Judy Sherman is a powerhouse singer who gives her all in numbers like the knockout “He Needs Me Now” and the bluesy “How Could I Be So Wrong?,” songs that ought to be more well known. Veteran Broadway performer Robert Cuccioli is isn’t given much to do as Carmine Malatesta but he has one clever number “Taste” which he makes the most of, proving that Carmine has very bad taste! A new character Jill Richardson, owner of the Jack and Jill Diner, played by Danielle Lee Greaves, almost steals the show with her two new songs, “Matter of Time” and “You Put in Good.” The ensemble of showgirls and Las Vegas types have two parody numbers (both new) “King’s Virgins” set in ancient Babylon and “Dr. Thunderfinger,” a James Bond spoof that is an homage to songwriters John Barry, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.

Mara Davi and Max Von Essen in “Golden Rainbow” at The York Theatre Company at the Theatre at St. Jean’s (Photo credit: Rider R. Foster)

Presented as a concert staging in The York’s Mufti Series, the show has no set but rather sparse projections from Peter Brucker. This is a show that could use some glitz and glitter due to its Las Vegas (albeit backstage) setting.  Conductor/music director David Hancock Turner at the piano leads the excellent combo made up of Evan Rees on synth, both Steve Picataggio and Ryan McCausland on percussion and Joseph Wallace on bass, playing the uncredited jazzy orchestrations which have a different sound than on the original Broadway cast album. While not a top drawer musical, this ten-person revised version of Golden Rainbow certainly deserves another look.

Golden Rainbow (September 23 – October 1, 2023)

Fall 2023 Mufti Series

The York Theatre Company

The Theatre at St. Jean’s, St. Jean Baptiste Church, 150 E. 76th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-935-5820 or visit http://www.YorkTheatre.org

Running time: two hours including one intermission

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About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (989 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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