The flag-waving at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, officially begins July 28, when George M! opens, pushing every patriotic button possible. The life story of playwright-songwriter-director-actor George M. Cohan, who wrote "You're a Grand Old Flag," "Over There," "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "Yankee Doodle Boy," comes to life with John Scherer in the title role of the 1968 musical.
Previews began July 7 and performances continue to Oct. 7. Scherer appeared in Goodspeed's The Apple Tree in 1999. Song and dance man Joel Blum (Show Boat, Steel Pier) broke his foot in rehearsals for the revival, so Scherer stepped in.
Greg Ganakas directs and Randy Skinner (who created tap dances in the original 42nd Street) choreographs. The late Michael Stewart (Bye Bye Birdie, Hello, Dolly!) penned the musical, with John and Francine Pascal. Cohan's daughter, Mary, provided musical revisions for the piece when it premiered on Broadway in 1968. Cohan lived 1878 1942.
The original production starred Joel Grey and served as a brief patriotic salve for an America addled by war and social change. The Goodspeed company includes Frank Root, Dorothy Stanley, Liz Pearce, Jennifer Smith, Tia Speros and Dale Hensley in featured parts. The troupe of 21 also has Jennifer Lee Crowl, Jeremy Davis, Tom Demenkoff, Jennifer Goode, Casey Hushion, Nancy Johnston, Dontee Kiehn, Joel Newsome, Rosie North, John Simpkins, Jason Sirois, Jennifer Taylor, Shonn Wiley and Branch Woodman.
Scherer played Bertie Wooster in Goodspeed's American premiere of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Alan Ayckbourn musical, By Jeeves.
Michael O'Flaherty is the George M! musical director. Designers are Howard Jones (set), John Carver Sullivan (costumes), Kirk Bookman (lighting).
Tickets are $20-$42. Goodspeed is on Route 82 in East Haddam, CT. For information, call (860) 873-8668 or try the website at www.goodspeed.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones