“George M!” Struts His Stuff at Wick Theatre
By Skip Sheffield
You’ve got to hand it to Marilynn Wick for giving work to so many performers and technicians in a slower time of year. “George M!” is a whopper of a show, with at least 20 people onstage and more behind the scenes.
“George M!,” which continues through July 19, is a 1968 musical about “The man who owned Broadway,” George M. Cohan. The lead role calls for a feisty fireplug of a guy. James Cagney played him in the movie. Joel Grey played him on Broadway. Here in Boca Raton Scott Leiendecker fills the bill in his Wick Theatre debut. The role calls for singing, dancing and playing a supremely confident little Irishman who won’t take no for an answer.
The script, by Michael Stewart and John and Fran Pascal, covers the life of George M. Cohan from his 1878 birth to 1937, when he finally hung up his tap shoes. He died just five years later, and he is often acknowledged as the “Father of Musical Comedy.”
Susan Powell, who was Miss America in 1981, is top-billed. This is a bit curious, because her main role is narrator. There is a lot of biographical stuff; probably more than we need to know. “George M!” is distinctly a period piece, and that period is long-gone. His greatest contributions are the American standards “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” “Over There” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” The rest of the Cohan catalog is forgettable, with the exception of “Mary,” which is given a lovely rendition by Susan Powell as Fay Templeton, with music director Michael Ursua playing piano live onstage. The rest of the backup music is recorded.
The cast is notable for its pint-sized singing, tap-dancing performers. Megan Sell is only 15, but she performs like a pro. Her even smaller younger brother Ryan is a hoot as Young George Cohan and a ventriloquist’s dummy.
Older pros are James Young as Cohan patriarch Jerry; Aaron Bower as his mother Nellie and Eliza Maher as his sister Josie. All were part of a vaudeville family performing quartet, “The Four Cohans.”
“George M” is not often performed, perhaps because it is so dated. This is your chance to see and hear a notable part of American history live and onstage.
Tickets are $55 and may be reserved by calling 561-995-2333 or by going to www.wicktheatre.org.