Show History



Fiorello!, with a book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, is a musical depicting the work of New York City Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia. The musical draws much of its inspiration from the 1955 book, Life with Fiorello, which shows how Fiorello went from a law clerk to a reform Republican who vowed to take on the corrupt political machine at Tammany Hall.

Given the subject material, it is understandable that Bock and Harnick based their music substantially on politics. The song, "Politics and Poker," for example, takes the idea of finding a proper Congressional candidate while simultaneously comparing it to the game of poker, and using a waltz tempo "to underscore the frivolity of their cynicism." The song, "Gentleman Jimmy," uses ragtime music to depict former Mayor Jimmy Walker, while other tunes cover topics, such as factory strikes and campaign corruption.

The book of the musical does play a bit fast and loose with some of the facts from LaGuardia's life. For example, the character of Thea dies during LaGuardia's 1929 mayoral campaign in the musical, when she died eight years before that in real life. The book also severely downplays LaGuardia's successful Congressional career to create more of an underdog story for his eventual mayoral win in 1933.


Fiorello! opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 23, 1959, produced by the famous team of Robert E. Griffith and Harold S. Prince (The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story). The production transferred to The Broadway Theatre on May 9, 1961, and closed on October 28 of the same year, totaling 795 performances. The musical returned briefly to the New York City Center on June 13, 1962, even though it only ran for sixteen performances.

More than thirty years later, in 1994, the New York City Center hosted a concert production of the musical, the first in their now-famous Encores! series. In late January 2013, Fiorello! had yet another revival run at the New York City Center to celebrate the twentieth season of Encores! The production included an additional song from the composing team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.

Cultural Influence

  • Fiorello! kickstarted the career of actor, Tom Bosley. Playing the titular role, he went on to star in a number of plays, television shows and movies, most famously playing Howard Cunningham on the series, "Happy Days."
  • Fiorello! is one of only two musicals to tie for the Tony Award for Best Musical. It tied with the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music in 1960.
  • Fiorello! is one of the first musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. 
  • Fiorello! served as the first major collaboration between Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. The two would move on to work on such notable musicals as Fiddler on the Roof, Tenderloin and She Loves Me.


  • Celebrities who have starred in Fiorello! (aside from those mentioned above) include: Jerry Zaks (Fiorello), Sorrell Booke (Fiorello), Faith Prince (Marie), Shuler Hensley (Ben), Howard Da Silva (Ben), Erin Dilly (Marie), Kate Baldwin (Thea), Dody Goodman (Dora), Paul Lipson (Morris), Art Lund (Ben), Bob Holiday (Neil), Ellen Hanley (Thea), Danny Rutigliano (Fiorello), Philip Bosco (Ben), Pat Stanley (Dora) and Rosalind Cash (Ensemble).
  • Since 1918, only eight musicals have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – of those eight, six are MTI Musicals: Of Thee I Sing (1932), Fiorello! (1960), How to Succeed... (1962), Sunday in the Park with George (1985) Rent (1996) and Next to Normal (2010).