Having long been a political junkie and covering that “biz” in Washington DC for most of my career, I’ve transitioned to NYC where Cabaret and Broadway is my bailiwick. So it seems apropos to take a closer look at an actor who combines the two in one role.
Boundaries blur; personalities merge, and actor Tony Lo Bianco’s physical appearance transforms to that of one time NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia (the airport was named after him). Lo Bianco known for his tough guy role in “The French Connection,” wrote, directed and stars in the one man play, “The Little Flower,” set in 1945 during La Guardia’s final day of his third term as Mayor. This play promises to be the actor’s legacy. He lives it and breathes it from Washington DC to NYC and beyond – as far as Russia. The Russians even though they knew next to nothing about the late Mayor, responded to “a man of and for the people,” according to Lo Bianco, a self-acknowledged history buff.
The actor told me after a recent performance in NYC that his biggest challenge is “endurance” not only the physical, but the constant changes required to maintain “relevance” today. “I have to make sure the history translates to a today mind.” For that reason he even includes a glossary – with definitions of jalopy, goniff and potsie –in the house program.
Lo Bianco, 76, has difficulty verbalizing the differences between himself and the character he portrays. Ladies, pay attention to this bachelor’s words: “I don’t leave a mess behind me when I leave a hotel room. La Guardia left an order to clean up the city but a mess followed him.” Lo Bianco talks the talk of a pol twisting every personal question away from himself and back to political issues. “This vehicle is my way of saying what’s on my mind and on his mind,” said the actor. “I can’t tell the difference any more.” But, he admitted, “I’m a little hampered by the period when La Guardia was around in expressing the things Tony wants to say although we have similar beliefs.”
As a writer, the political issues he’s chosen to present in the play are ones he’s concerned about and still have currency for the audience – the future of our youth, education, unemployment, energy conservation, the deficit, borrowing money from a country that is our enemy and fighting political corruption. This is one way the actor feels he’s contributing to our society. “I’m more interested in what you [the audience] take away,” Lo Bianco explained, “ and what you are inspired to do.” His motivation with this project is to teach. You feel his passion. Lo Bianco told me it’s the key to keeping him “young and vibrant.”
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