The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review

May your cup runneth over with dividends and the Prophet protect your profits.—Arab Sheik
A professor puppet encourages everyone to be a puppet in a song satirizing McCarthy-era conformity.
(Photo: Tanja)
E. Y. "Yip" Harburg sat next to Ira Gershwin in high school and the two future lyricists worked together on their school newspaper. Gershwin became famous for his sophisticated love songs, while Harburg earned a name for himself as perhaps the most socially conscious lyricist ever to have a work produced on Broadway and in a major motion picture.

The best known of Harburg's socially conscious songs is "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime", from the Depression era revue, Americana. But while most other lyricists had a lukewarm dedication to social change and quickly reverted to romantic love songs after the Depression, Harburg's commitment to social justice never waned.

In 1951 he penned the satirical Christmas story Flahooley in response to his Hollywood blacklisting. The musical had a book by Harburg and Fred Saidy, and music by Sammy Fain. It had singing puppets and a great score, but its harsh political statement could not compete with The King and I, South Pacific and Kiss Me Kate. The show ran for only 40 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre.

The following year, a nonpolitical version of Flahooley, adapted by William Friml and Burton Lane and renamed Jollyanna, died at the San Francisco and Los Angeles Light Civic Operas. In 1998 the musical was revived at the Theatre At St. Clement's, with much of the material that had been excised from the original in out-of-town tryouts reinstated.

Fans of this little known but excellent show will be happy to know that it has once again been brought to stage, this time in a collaboration of Theater for the New City and The Harlem Repertory Theatre. It's been newly adapted by the Harlem Rep's Artistic Director Keith Lee Grant, who also directs and choreographs.

Flahooley is an allegorical musical tale set in the fictional Midwestern city of Capsulanti, headquarters of B.G. Bigelow, the largest toy manufacturing company in the world. Puppet designer Sylvester Cloud (John Wiethorn) has created a talking doll that he hopes will win him the recognition and monetary rewards that will allow him to marry his girlfriend, Sandy (Natalia Peguero, who hold her own in a role that gave Barbara Cook her Broadway debut). Company owner B.G. Bigelow (Daniel Fergus Tamulonis) believes the doll will be the big sensation of the season. Whether or not he will reward Sylvester is debatable.

While Bigelow is plotting his conquest of the toy world, an Arabian sheik (the delightful Primy Rivera), arrives. He beseeches Bigelow for help in repairing a magic lamp with which his kingdom hopes to bolster its oil industry against competition from atomic powers and Communist oppressors. When it turns out the doll can only say "dirty red, dirty red, dirty red" (on Broadway Harburg allowed "dirty red" to be replaced with laughing), the company is thrown into turmoil, which becomes chaos when the doll conjures the genie (Rivera) out of its lamp.

In this production Bill Baird's marionettes have been replaced by a collection of hand, rod and Bunraku puppets designed by Daniel Fergus Tamulonis. There are also cartoon-like productions that lighten, without distorting, the tone of the musical.

Though l this low budget production has little of the glitz that attracts Christmas tourists to Broadway, it is filled with enthusiasm, conviction and good fun. The lyrical "He's Only Wonderful," sung by the very capable Peguero, and the production number "Jump Chillun' Jump" are worthy of a bigger stage and audience. And all this at a ticket price of $18, $10 for students and seniors!

Book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy
Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Music by Sammy Fain
Adapted, directed and choreographed by Keith Lee Grant Music Direction, Arrangements and additional text by Michael Roth Cast: Natalia Peguero (Sandy), Alexandra Bernard (Elsa Bundshlager/Flahhooley), John Wiethorn Sylvester), Primy Rivera (Abou/Arab Sheik), Daniel Fergus Tamulonis (B.G. Bigelow)
Costume Design: Anne-Marie Wright
Set Design: Mary Myers
Lighting Design: Brian Aldous
Videographer: Edward Corcino
Puppet Design: Daniel Fergus Tamulonis
Running Time: 90 minutes
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. at East 10th St.
Opened 12/18/09; closes 1/3/09
Check for schedule
Tickets: $18, $10 students and seniors (212) 868-4444
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 18, 2009

Musical Numbers
Opening Number (B.G. Bigelow INC)/Ensemble
You Too Can Be a Puppe/Clyde & Company
Here's to Your Illusions//Sandy and Sylvester
Who Says There Ain't No Santa Claus/Sylvester, Clyde & ensemble
He's Only Wonderful///Sandy & Ensemble
The World Is Your Balloon//Clyde, Sylvester, Sandy & Ensemble
Jump Chillun Jump/Ensemble
No More Flahooleys//Ensemble
Spirit of Capsulanti (Break It Up)//Baumgarten & Ensemble
Come Back Little Genie//Sandy, Najla & Ensemble
The Springtime Cometh/Abou
Sing The Merry Christmas/Ensemble
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Flahooley
  • I disagree with the review of Flahooley
  • The review made me eager to see Flahooley
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook , Curtainup at Twitter and at our Blog Annex
Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill Broadway Yearbook


©Copyright 2009, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from