Fiorello!'s book, by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott (condensed for Encores! by Weidman's playwright son, John), dodges La Guardia's thornier tactics by stopping just before he becomes mayor, focusing on his pre-Depression work as a fiery anti-corruption, pro-workers' rights crusader. A parallel thread charts his two-edged romance with his first wife, Thea (Kate Baldwin), who died tragically young, and his loyal longtime secretary, Marie (Erin Dilly), whom he ultimately married.

Crisp and fast-moving, the book offers sassy knowingness rather than depth. The show's literary distinction comes largely from Sheldon Harnick's witty, juicily playful lyrics, elegantly matched by Jerry Bock's ear-catching or heart-tugging tunes. Audiences love "Little Tin Box," the team's hymn to the Seabury investigation, which propelled La Guardia's predecessor, Jimmy Walker, out of office; I personally cherish "The Bum Won," the polyphonic gem in which Republican ward heelers bemoan their failure to support La Guardia's unexpectedly victorious run for Congress. It contains the hilarious self-exploding apothegm, "People can do what they want to / But I got a feeling it ain't democratic."

Encores! did only moderately well by Fiorello!, neither evoking nor obliterating memories of Abbott's stylish original production, with its inventive use of newsreel footage, its ingenious sets by the Eckarts, and its graceful Peter Gennaro choreography. That was then. Here, Gary Griffin's staging seemed cramped and awkward, choreographer Alex Sanchez's dances often showy but less often apt.

Slow burn: Moran searches for his fury.
Joan Marcus
Slow burn: Moran searches for his fury.

Details

All the Rage
By Martin Moran
Peter J. Sharp Theater
416 West 42nd Street
212-279-4200alltherageplay.com

Fiorello!
By Jerome Weidman, George Abbott, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerry Bock
New York City Center
131 West 55th Street(Closed)

Still, Rutigliano made a gruffly endearing La Guardia, Baldwin a lushly sung Thea, and Dilly an appealingly plucky Marie. Shuler Hensley, as a Republican ward boss, feasted, grinning, on the show's two best songs, while Adam Heller made pungent comedy as the hero's harried law clerk.

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