George M. Cohan almost single-handedly invented the American musical comedy

Published: Monday, June 18, 2012 7:00 am By: Camille Kaiser Source: The CUE


George M. Cohan almost single-handedly invented the American musical comedy, writing more than fifty shows and hundreds of songs, some of which are included in the musical, “George M”, with book by Michael Stewart and John and Fran Pascal. Directed by Richard Stafford, the story tells of Cohan (John Scherer) starting as a child performer of the family act called The Four Cohans, which included his father, Jerry Cohan (Jim Walton) mother Nellie (Melodie Walford) and sister Josie (Amanda Trusty).  John Farrell’s set and Andrew Gmoser’s lighting design enable a smooth transition of venue from Providence to Cedar Rapids to New York City and we get a glimpse into what working in show business must have been like in those early days as we watch George strive for and attain his American dream.  

George is portrayed as a driven, egomaniacal workaholic, but while he was temperamental in his early years, he later learned to control his frustrations.  I would have liked to have gotten more than just a peek inside the mind of the King of Broadway.  Mr. Sherer gives a  poignant performance near the end of the show after Cohan comes out of retirement for an acting job and returns to his old song-and-dance style.  He is forcefully reminded that times have changed and you can feel the heartache of a man who has outlived a dream. 

The show is abundant with bombastic tunes that are pure Broadway fun as are the costumes by Leon Dobrowski.  John Scherer’s vocal and dance skills as well as the talent and energy of the entire cast and ensemble are a joy to watch.  Nothing captivates an audience more than tap dancing and this show is abundant with it, cleverly choreographed by Jonathan Stahl.  We are also treated to some of Cohan’s best tunes, under the musical direction of Leo P. Carusone; among them “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Over There” and “You’re A Grand Old Flag”.  The staging for “You’re A Grand Old Flag” is magnificent and it was refreshing to see the audience enjoy this display of patriotism. 

When I attended the show, there was a class of elegantly dressed high school students who were obviously delighted with their “Senior Night Out” celebration.  It was interesting that what was nostalgic to me was bright and shiny new to them!  This is definitely a show for all ages. 
The production continues through July 1st.