Though once a staple of the American Musical theatre canon, the musically rich, lyrically lithe, and satirically sassy Finian’s Rainbow has all but vanished from the schedules of theatres, even those like the 5th Avenue that take pride in bringing back “lost musicals” in full productions. Showtunes Theatre (full disclosure, a company I co-founded and co-artistic directed for its first decade) does such shows in concert as a major aspect of its mission, having shed new light on the likes of Do I Hear A Waltz?, Promises, Promises, and Miracle on 34th Street over the years, and now takes on Finian’s Rainbow.
In the pivotal role of Og (a rapidly growing Leprechaun, who will become mortal unless he wrests back his pot of gold from the wily and larcenous Finian) is Jon Lutyens. Lutyens, a Seattle-based, twinkling eyed, redheaded young character musician, educator, and proud member of the LGBT community, has appeared onstage with ACT Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, 5th Avenue Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Book-It Repertory, and others–recently as Grantaire in Les Misérables (Village Theatre), Montjoy in Henry V (Seattle Shakespeare Company), and Gerald in Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play’ (Seattle Children’s Theatre). Jon holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Western Washington University, and has worked as an arts educator for Seattle Opera, Seattle Public Schools, and the Evergreen School. Finian’s Rainbow will be his fifth appearance with Showtunes Theatre Company.
Lutyens and I chatted about our shared passion for musicals as he takes on a character played with wild, campy eccentricity by Tommy Steele in the Finian’s Rainbow film version opposite Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. How campy? Well in an edition of Forbidden Broadway, a faux Petula Clark sang “How are things in Glocca Morra? And is Tommy Steele still flamin’ there?”
David-Edward Hughes: What is most appealing to you about doing the role of an oversize leprechaun in this rarely staged musical?
Jon Lutyens: Og is a role I have wanted to play since I was a kid watching Tommy Steele in the Fred Astaire film. I love the hybrid of fantasy and zero-punches-pulled reality in Finian’s Rainbow. To be a six-foot leprechaun in a musical that deals very openly with racial and economic inequality (while still having a score chock-full of irresistible songs!) is a remarkable thing.
DEH: Are you an all-around musicals fan, or is there a particular era/genre that most delights you.
JL: I enjoy discovering new stories through the musical theatre medium, the way some people read novels (graphic or traditional) or watch films, so all sub-genres appeal to me. If a story is told well, its music can take any form and pull me in. A show like Finian’s Rainbow can have as much to say in its way as a show such as Hamilton, albeit in very different modes, and from very different viewpoints in time.
DEH: You are on the Showtunes admin staff now. What do you bring to the organization?
JL: I do also serve as Literary Associate for Showtunes. This allows me to use the some-would-say broad knowledge of the hundreds of shows in my head to assist their work. Knowing the dramaturgical needs to stage a piece can come in handy when considering musicals for concert productions. For instance, both shows in our current season, Finian’s Rainbow and Working, have more than one version that is able to be licensed. We could readily discuss the differences between them, and make recommendations. (It must be said that my position as Literary Associate does not give me any edge in auditions, however.)
DEH: Name your favorite and least favorite musical.
JL: That is one of my least favorite questions. Writers’ storytelling styles can be so very different that comparing their strengths to choose a favorite always leaves some very wonderful writing out. I have favorites from individual writers or teams, but that’s a long list. Lately I have been listening to and enjoying Fortress of Solitude by Michael Friedman.
DEH: Do you have a day job as they say, or are you a show-biz gypsy.
JL: Yes, like so many, I do have a part-time job with a non-profit that works with companies in Redmond to address their collective commute needs and challenges.
DEH: What is something you do in your recreation time no one would expect?
JL: I own a kayak–which I don’t take out on the water as often as I’d like because it’s two-seated, and the confluence of an available friend, free time, and fair weather can be rare.
And once again, the Inside the Actor’s Studio questionnaire!
What is your favorite word? Yes
What is your least favorite word? Any word that is used as a weapon to mislead or hurt.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Collaborative honesty.
What turns you off? Being taken for granted.
What is your favorite curse word? A made up German word from You Tube: Arschgeige.
What sound or noise do you love? The palpable silence before dawn.
What sound or noise do you hate? The vocal tone of apathy.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Cartographer
What profession would you not like to do? I would not make a good pilot.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Well, you took your own sweet time, didn’t you?”
Showtunes Theatre Company’s Finian’s Rainbow also stars Cayman Ilika, Jared Michael Brown, E. Ray Anderson, Hughes Hastings, Butch Stevenson and Katy Tabb. Two performances only, March 19 and 20th, in Benaroya Hall’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall. Single tickets ($21-$46) are available online or in person at the Benaroya Hall Ticket Office.