The second show of Theatre by the Sea's 75th season is "George M!", a tribute to Rhode Island's own and the celebration of America and the Fourth of July, this fast paced show follows the great song and dance man, George M. Cohan, over a 60 year period from his childhood on the vaudeville circuit to New York wher he began his 25-year reign over the Broadway stage. The show is a musical with a book by Michael Stewart, John and Francine Pascal and music and lyrics by George M. Cohan, based on his life, the biggest Broadway star of his day. He was known as "The Man Who Owned Broadway." The story covers the period from the late 1880's until 1937 and focuses on Cohan's life and show business career from his early days in vaudeville with his parents and sister to his later success as a Broadway singer, dancer, composer, lyricist, theatre director and producer. The show includes such hit songs as "Give My Regards to Broadway", "You're a Grand Old Flag", and "Yankee Doodle Dandy." The show originally opened on Broadway in 1968 and starred Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters as George and Josie Cohan. Director Aimee Turner breathes new life into this show with her superb cast while choreographer Michael Susko creates some spectacular dance numbers executed perfectly by this huge cast. The musical direction by Aaron McAllister adds the finishing touches to this must see show of this summer season. Lead by the multitalented Joel Kipper as George, the cast's acting, dancing and singing soar to new heights in this show from the 1960"s.
Owner Bill Hanney and fellow producers Aimee Turner and Joel Kipper spare no expense to create hhigh standards for this show from costumes, to lighting to sound. The multitude of gorgeous costumes are designed by Jeff Shearer while the scenic design is by Ray Recht. Lighting and sound is by Eileen Smitheimer. Joel Kipper is onstage almost the whole show and he is dynamic in this role. his many numbers include "All Aboard for Broadway", "Musical Comedy Man", "Twentieth Century Love", "My Home Town", the show stopping "Give My Regards to Broadway which closes Act 1 as well as the show stopping "Yankee Doodle Dandy", (Both contain spectacular dancing by the chorus.) "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway", "So Long Mary", "Harrigan", "Over There", "You're a Grand Old Flag'', "I'd Rather Be Right" and "The Man Who Owns Broadway". Joel plays the part broadly to play this larger than life character, but reigns it in when it needs poignancy especially at the death of his father and when his sister, Josie leaves the act. His dancing is excellently executed and he brings the house down at the end of both acts. Bravo!
His father and mother, Jerry and Nellie are well played by veteran Broadway actor, Bob Freschi and actress, Jane Labanz, their dancing and singing is superb. RIC graduate Kristen Quartarone, a gorgeous blonde plays his sister, Josie. She gets to dance up a storm as well as show off her lovely soprano voice in "Oh, You Beautiful Boy", "Ring to Name Rose" and "Nellie Kelly". The family members give strong support to Joel throughout the whole show. Playing George's first wife, Ethel Levy is Morgan Rose who gets to belt out "Broadway Tag" and "Push Me in My Pushcart" with two other girls. She gets to have a tear jerker moment as Ethel departs from George in the song "Ethel". His second wife from Worcester, MA, Agnes Nolan is wonderfully played by red headed, Molly Marie Walsh and she gets to show off her lovely voice in "Billie". One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Talia Barzilay who plays Madame Grimaldi who owned the boarding house where the Cohans were staying when they couldn't pay the rent. Her antics are hysterical as she keeps the audience in stiches. Playing the well known actress of that time, Fay Templeton is statuesque actress, Erin Romero who's stunning soprano voice stops the show in the song "Mary". Fellow producer, Sam Harris is well played by Tyler Fish who sings the lead in "So Long, Mary". Another strong performance is given by Brian Baily as the stage manager who finally tells George off in the "I'd Rather Be Right" scene. RIC senior Kevin Martin plays the exasperated director in that scene who is at his wits end with George throwing in old vaudeville routines to the new show. With so many other talented performers in the show, it would take too long to list everyone who made this a production to be very proud of. A special word of praise to the wonderful orchestra under Aaron's direction and the incredible tap dances created by Michael. Bravo! Kudos to Aimee for obtaining the best results from the adults and children under her direction. So for a trip back down memory lane, be sure to catch "George M!" for a patriotic and sensational summer rendition at Bill Hanney's Theatre by the Sea. (Be sure to go the restaurant, The Bistro run by Duane and Carleen Crowe for a scrumptious meal before the show.)