George M! Is A Rouser!

Published: Thursday, June 14, 2012 7:00 am By: William J. Reynolds Source: Rockland Lifestyle
Friday evening, June 8, was a special evening for the opening night of the Westchester Broadway Theatre's current musical production of 'George M!' 
The 20th Annual Memorial Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship Award was given to Archbishop Stepinac graduating senior Albert Stenaj who is planning for a career
in theatre.
Sitting in the audience was actress Patti Mariano who, as a child in 1957, played George M. Cohen's little sister Josie in the TV movie 'Mr. Broadway.'
Ms. Mariano's association with the father of musical comedy continued when she played in the ensemble of the original Broadway production of 'George
M!'
when it premiered on April 10, 1968 which starred Joel Grey, in the title role, and Bernadette Peters as the grown-up Josie.  Ms. Mariano tells us that once, when Bernadette Peters broke her ankle, she substituted for Peters.  For her efforts in the show, Bernadette Peters won the Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance.  Joel Grey received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical and the show brought home the gold for Best Choreography (Joe Layton).
Film buffs will, undoubtedly, associate the late, great James Cagney who played the legendary showman in the 1942 hit musical 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.'  In 1955, Cagney reprised his role as Cohan in the Bob Hope film 'The Seven Little Foys.'  We are told, in the show's program, that Cagney refused any compensation for his appearance, as a way to thank the late Eddie Foy, Sr., for his efforts to help the young Cagney when he was trying to break into show business during his early days on the vaudeville circuit.
'George M!' spans some six decades in the life of Cohan from the time of his birth in 1878 up to 1937 (Cohan died on November 5, 1942).  Literally, born on stage to a traveling vaudeville family, Young George was not content to live out of a suitcase with his family, performing one week in Poughkeepsie, one week in Peoria and yet another week in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and all points in between.  George set his sights on making it big on Broadway.
With spunk and determination, the young Irish-American wins over doubtful producers and casting directors, and eventually achieves his goal of becoming 'Mr. Broadway.'
Stepping into the large shoes of the late Jimmy Cagney and the multi-talented Joey Grey is actor John Scherer.  No stranger to the role, Scherer has performed the title role at the Goodspeed Opera House, where he was honored with the Connecticut Critics Circle Award.
Jim Walton, who plays Jerry, the family patriarch, bears a striking resemblance, in our opinion, to Joel Grey.  He ably portrays the father who, at first, balks at Young George's wild-eyed