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Theatre / Fiorello!

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Fiorello! is a musical about former New York City Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, with a book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, originally produced in 1959.

The plot follows LaGuardia's political career from shortly before World War I, when a garment workers' strike gives him an issue to run against Tammany Hall on, to 1933, the year he is finally elected as Mayor of New York.

This show contains examples of:

  • Cat Up a Tree: "On the Side of the Angels".
    Call the fire department
    There's another kitten up a tree.
    Up goes Fiorello,
    And everybody cheers.
    But what does he use for a ladder?
  • Chorus Girls: The show brings on a batch of chorus girls to tap-dance to "Gentleman Jimmy". (The Real Life Jimmy Walker was famous for having affairs with chorus girls.)
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: "On the Side of the Angels".
    That bench stays crowded
    It's a regular wailing wall
    Penniless and helpless
    Ignorant and scared
    He collects 'em all!
  • Girl Friday: Marie, Fiorello's incorruptibly faithful assistant. She suffers through fifteen years of unrequited love for him until he finally makes her his second wife.
  • How We Got Here: The show begins with a short prologue in which Fiorello, as mayor of New York City, reminisces about the very beginning of his political career.
  • I Will Show You X!: Neil, asked to prevent a nearby fire alarm from being pulled while Fiorello is giving a speech, stops a man who claims his house is on fire.
    Neil: Just in time, Morris. I may want you to identify this guy in court.
    Frantic man: I'll show you some identifying, you fresh mug. Me and one or two others.
  • Montage: A newsreel summarizes Fiorello's exploits as a pilot in World War I.
  • Playing Card Motifs: "Politics and Poker" has a group of Tammany hacks playing poker while discussing political strategy:
    Second Hack: How's about we should make Jack Riley the guy?
    Third Hack: Which Riley are you thinking of? Jack B. or Jack Y.?
    Ben: I say neither one, I never met 'em.
    Fourth Hack: I say: when you've got a pair of jacks, bet 'em!
  • Quitting to Get Married: Marie doesn't quit; she gets fired and then married. To be more specific: Fiorello fires her on the spot over what seems like a minor conflict of priorities, but he explains why: "I can't court a girl who's working for me." His very next words to her: "Will you marry me?" It's admittedly a sudden proposal, but having nursed unrequited feelings for him for fifteen years and now desperate to get married, Marie can't help but accept it.
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The Ben Marino Association, a smoke-filled joint in Greenwich Village where Tammany Hall hacks meet and play five-card stud.
  • Spelling Song: "The Name's LaGuardia," in which the title character not only spells his name but informs voters that T-A-M-M-A-N-Y "spells tyranny like R-A-T spells rat" and sings a Yiddish verse spelling his name in Hebrew letters.
  • Suspicious Spending: The song "Little Tin Box" invokes frugality as an excuse for the suspicious spending uncovered by Judge Seabury's investigations into municipal corruption.
  • Villainous Lament: "The Bum Won," in which the Tammany hacks read the headlines and weep.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: LaGuardia says he's half-Jewish when campaigning among the Jews, and sings a Yiddish version of his campaign song ("Ich zug tsu eye-ich, Tammany is nisht kosher").