March 4, 1961: It was standing-room only for the first of two performances of “Fiorello!” at the Masonic Temple in Scranton.
The biographical musical about the life of late New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was the final show for the Broadway Theatre League’s 1960-61 season. It opens with his run for Congress against the Tammany Hall political machine, which happened prior to the United States entering World War I and La Guardia’s return home from that war. The second act deals with his run for mayor against Jimmy Walker and the plot to kill La Guardia that emerges. The theme of how La Guardia’s political world affects his friends and love life runs throughout the musical.
In 1960, “Fiorello!” won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the New York Drama Critics Award, and it shared the Tony Award for best musical with “The Sound of Music.” At the time the show played Scranton, which included a second performance on March 5, it was still on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre.
Bob Carroll, who was a soloist in the Jimmy Dorsey band, played the role of Fiorello in Scranton. Other members of the cast included Paul Lipson as Morris, Zeme North as Dora, Charlotte Fairchild as Marie, Rudy Bond as Ben, Clint Young as Floyd and Jen Nelson as Thea.
The Hotel Jermyn also joined in the excitement of live musical theater in Scranton by offering its famous dinner buffet on March 4 and 5 prior to curtain time. The buffet cost $3.50.
The cast also stayed at the Hotel Jermyn. To celebrate the show and cast, the hotel’s bakers created a “Fiorello”-themed cake that was presented to the cast.
Proceeds from Broadway Theatre League’s season were earmarked as a donation to the Lackawanna United Fund (now the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties). The other shows in the 1960-61 season were “Once Upon a Mattress,” “The Andersonville Trial” and “The Pleasure of His Company.”
Song ‘Politics and Poker’ from the musical “Fiorello!”
New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading the comics over the radio during the 1945 newspaper deliverymen strike.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast