Political ‘Fiorello!’ echoes turbulent election season

“Fiorello!” is a Pulitzer Prize and three-time Tony Award-winning musical from 1960 about Fiorello H
Judd Hirsch will star in "The Stone Witch" at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, Mass.
Judd Hirsch will star in "The Stone Witch" at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, Mass.

There’s a lot to like looking at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s 2016 summer season, but Kate Maguire knows how to grab someone’s attention as well as anyone.

“Politics and Judd Hirsch,” said Maguire, producing artistic director at the Pittsfield-based theater troupe. “This is an election year and we have a play about one of the greatest mayors of New York ever. And we have a brand new play starring Judd Hirsch, who’s won a Tony, an Emmy and an Obie. We have some remarkable actors and some great plays. It’s going to be a very exciting summer.”

“Fiorello!” is a Pulitzer Prize and three-time Tony Award-winning musical from 1960 about Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the mayor of New York city nearly a century ago. Jerome Weidman and George Abbott wrote the book, and Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick provided the music and lyrics. The show is currently in previews, opens Saturday and runs through July 23 at The Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge.

Tony, Emmy winner

Hirsch, meanwhile, who won two Tonys, two Emmys and was nominated for an Oscar, is starring in the world premiere of “The Stone Witch,” a Sherm Bitterman play about a young writer helping an old one overcome writer’s block. Hirsch, now 81 and the star of TV’s “Taxi” (1978-83), “Dear John” (1988-92) and “Numb3rs” (2005-2010), plays the older writer who has enjoyed great success in the past but is struggling to produce his first book in more than a decade.


WHERE: Berkshire Theatre Group, The Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge, Massachusetts

WHEN: Previews today and Friday; opens Saturday and runs through July 23; performance times are 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: $60-$50

MORE INFO: 413-997-4444, www.berkshiretheatregroup.org

“Fiorello was a progressive man of the people,” Maguire said of the individual who took on the powerful political bosses of Tammany Hall just after World War I. “We have a great young cast starring Austin Lombardi as Fiorello, and in a year when people are thinking about who they’re going to vote for, it’s great to have a political discussion going on on stage. It won the Pulitzer for Drama and a Tony as Best Musical, so it’s a very special play.”

“The Stone Witch” will be produced at the Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge opening July 20 and running through Aug. 20.

“This is a piece that comes with Judd Hirsch because he’s been working with it for a while,” said Maguire.

Artistic genius

“When I read it I didn’t know Judd was attached to it. I just liked it because it’s an interesting and fascinating look at artistic genius, and Sherm Bitterman and Steve Zuckerman, the director, have been working on it for a while and have worked together before. It’s about a young writer who has admired this other writer for years from afar, and now they get to go on a journey together.”

Hirsch, who starred in films such as “Ordinary People” (1980), “Running on Empty” (1988), “Independence Day” (1996) and “A Beautiful Mind (2001), recently finished filming “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

Also on the BTG stage this summer are “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (June 25-July 16), “Little Shop of Horrors” (July 9-23), “Constellations” (Aug. 6-27), and “Beauty and The Beast” (Aug. 12-19).

The BTG summer season will extend into October this year with “The Bakelite Masterpiece,” a co-production with WAM Theatre. Written by Kate Cayley and directed by WAM’s Kristin van Ginhoven, “The Bakelite Masterpiece,” which opens on Sept. Oct 1 and runs through Oct. 23, tells the story of a Dutch artist at the conclusion of World War II. It stars David Adkins and Corrina May.

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]

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