“George M!” at 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa CA
Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Photos by Eric Chazankin
Just in time for the Fourth of July, “George M!”, a Broadway musical about the life and times of a near-forgotten but seminal talent makes its debut in the GK Hardt Theater at 6th Street Playhouse.
Joseph Favalora takes to the stage in the title role as George M Cohan (“You’re a Grand Old Flag”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”) the iconic song-and-dance man who, at the turn of the last century, single-handedly transformed Broadway and created the modern stage musical. Favalora has big shoes to fill, but does an admirable job with his magnetic stage presence and lively persona. Abbey Lee, as Cohan’s sister and performing partner Josie, gets to show her triple-threat talents. As always, she’s a pleasure to watch.
The book by Michael Stewart and John and Francine Pascal has glaring weak spots with confusing transitions – and sometimes none at all. One example: Little Georgie starts his career performing as a child in 19th Century vaudeville with his parents and sister, but we don’t see the child turning to a man.
What we do see is a large cast in number after number, a dizzying array of bouncy singers and dancers and a breathless parade of vaudeville acts: ventriloquists, violinists tap dancing en pointe in ballet shoes, duets and soloists. The music, most of which is by Cohan himself, is nothing short of inspired. You realize why so many of his songs became national standards and wartime anthems. We also get to see Cohan as the brash, ruthless and bitter character he was in life.
Opening night’s performance has good if uneven energy with all the signs of being under-rehearsed. The choreography needs tightening, there are too-noisy scene changes and occasional flat notes committed even by some of the better singers. This is most noticeable in Favalora’s performance. His energy flags at times, but it must be said that even with these inconsistencies, his sheer talent puts it over the top.
Despite its flaws, with its brisk direction by Patrick Nims, “George M!” at 6th Street is thoroughly entertaining, infectiously patriotic, and has some really fine tap dancing to boot, something you don’t often see on North Bay stages.
When: Now through July 9, 2017
7:30 p.m. Thursdays
8:00 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
2:00 p.m. Saturdays & Sundays
Tickets $15 to $38
Where: 6th Street Playhouse, GK Hardt Theatre
52 West 6th Street
Santa Rosa, CA
(707) 523-4185 ext. 1