The acclaimed actor returns to portray Fiorello La Guardia in
Off-Broadway’s The Little Flower.
Sometimes it’s so damn good, it’s meant to be revived
— not just the play
itself, but the lead actor perfectly channeling the main character.
In this case, it’s Tony Lo Bianco reprising his Emmy-award-winning
performance as former New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia in
The Little Flower. The off-Broadway production at the Dicapo
Opera Theatre is adapted from Paul Shyre’s 1984 play Hizzoner!
was a diminutive little guy, but it was his spirit that always
excited me,” Lo Bianco says of the beloved mayor. “It’s his honesty,
the sacrificial life that he led. It’s his inspiration, his feeling
and compassion. He spoke and fought for the people of this country.”
Of Italian/Jewish heritage, La Guardia (nicknamed “Little Flower”)
was the rare Big-Apple Republican who appealed to the vast diversity
of the metropolis. He stood a mere five-feet tall, but his
outspokenness and unorthodox governing style became the stuff of New
York legend (major airport named after him? Check!).
Lo Bianco adds, “When he became mayor in 1934, he cut his salary in
half, and it’s not because he was a rich fellow. He came from very
meager means. He was just a fellow who cared about making things
right. He became kind of a symbol for America during its worst
times. He was a fourteen-year Congressman, and during those times,
he introduced things like the five-day, 40-hour workweek,
unemployment insurance, regulations on banks. He was really an
Lo Bianco knows a little something about innovation himself. Born in
Brooklyn, he made a name for himself in blue-collar roles,
especially in the Seventies, with the NBC series Police Story
and the film classic The French Connection.
“The French Connection was my second film,” he says.
“I was always fortunate to get a job. I was fortunate to have been
from Brooklyn and to have surroundings that made me understand the
human condition. That’s the story of my life, actually: watching and
learning and pulling from history. If I walk down the street, to me,
the street is my teacher. History is also your teacher, and the
further back you can go, the richer your warehouse will be. Life to
me is the biggest teacher of acting.”