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About Fiorello
Fiorello lyrics

Fiorello! is a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about New York City mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, a reform Republican who took on Tammany Hall. The book is by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock. It is one of only seven musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


Fiorello! opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 23, 1959, moved to The Broadway Theatre on May 9, 1961, and closed after 795 performances. It was directed by Geoge Abbott with choreography by Peter Gennaro. Tom Bosley originated the title role in the original Broadway cast, opposite Howard Da Silva as the Republican machine boss Ben Marino.

A concert production of Fiorello! was performed at the first Encores! at the New York City Center concert series in February 1994.

Plot summary

The story follows the life of Fiorello H. La Guardia during World War I and ten years later. As Mayor of New York City La Guardia reforms city politics by helping end Tammany Hall's vaunted political machine.

Background and analysis

The musical contains several songs built around a group of machine politicians: "Politics and Poker", in which Republican machine politicians try to pick a congressional candidate in a district they consider hopeless, while playing a game of poker; "The Bum Won", in which these same politicians commiserate with one another after LaGuardia has won the election without their support; and "Little Tin Box", in which they imagine a series of Tammany politicians attempting to explain to a judge that their wealth came from their scrupulous habits of saving ("I can see Your Honor doesn't pull his punches/ And it looks a trifle fishy, I'll admit,/ But for one whole week I went without my lunches/ And it mounted up, Your Honor, bit by bit./ Up Your Honor, bit by bit.")

In "I Love a Cop", woman factory worker describes her hapless situation of having fallen in love with a policeman who was called out against a strike by her union; "The Name's La Guardia" has LaGuardia campaigning in English, Italian and Yiddish. There is also a ragtime number, "Gentleman Jimmy" about bon vivant mayor James J. "Jimmy" Walker, and "Marie's Law", in which Marie proposes a "law" about how husbands should treat their wives. ("Every girl shall have a honeymoon, which will last at least a year,/ During which aforesaid honeymoon, every care shall disappear?".)

Besides the inevitable invention of some peripheral characters, the musical plays a bit fast and loose with some basic facts of LaGuardia's life. In fact, LaGuardia's first wife, Thea (played by Ellen Hanley in the original Broadway production), died after only three years of marriage, but the fictional Thea lives another eight years, so that her death can be one more calamity during LaGuardia's unsuccessful 1929 mayoral campaign; also, the script downplays LaGuardia's generally successful congressional career to make him seem more of an outsider and increase the triumph of his eventual mayoral victory in 1933.


Act I
On the Side of the Angels
Politics and Poker
Marie's Law
The Name's LaGuardia
The Bum Won
I Love a Cop
I Love a Cop (reprise)
Till Tomorrow
Home Again
Act II
When Did I Fall in Love
Gentleman Jimmy
Gentleman Jimmy (reprise)
The Name's LaGuardia (reprise)
Little Tin Box
The Very Next Man
Politics and Poker (reprise)
The Very Next Man (reprise)
The Name's LaGuardia (reprise)

An additional song, "Where Do I Go from Here?" (originally written for Marie to sing in Act I) was cut out of town; it can be heard on the Liz Callaway album Lost In Boston (Varese Sarabande VSD-5475). "Till Tomorrow" and "Unfair" were written "on spec" before Bock and Harnick were hired for the show. "Little Tin Box" was added on the road in Philadelphia.

Critical response

In his review for the New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote: "...It is exciting; it is enjoyable and it is decent ... Jerry Bock has set ... a bouncy score ... s the writer of lyrics, Sheldon Harnick is in an unfailingly humorous frame of mind ... nder Mr. Abbott's invincible stage direction, the whole show comes alive with gusto ... he cast could not be more winning or in better voice."

Louis Calta wrote: " 'Fiorello!' is the town's latest stage hit ... the attraction earned flowery praise from all of the New York drama critics."

Original Cast Album

Fiorello!, was originally released on Capitol Records, later on Broadway Angel (CD #ZDM 7243 5 65023 2 1).

Awards and nominations

Tony Award
Best Musical (winner) (tie with The Sound of Music)
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Tom Bosley (winner)
Howard Da Silva (nominee)
Best Scenic Design (Musical) (William and Jean Ekhart) (nominee)
Best Choreography (nominee)
Best Direction of a Musical (winner)
Best Conductor and Musical Director (Hal Hastings)(nominee)
Pulitzer Prize for Drama (winner)

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