GEORGE M! recounts the life story of George M. Cohan, a giant of the American musical theater who penned songs like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There,” “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.” In his triumphant career, Cohan helped transform the Broadway musical from a slapdash patchwork of songs and sketches into a streamlined, book-driven musical story. Covering a sixty-year period from his childhood in vaudeville through his towering success on Broadway, GEORGE M! presents a rousing, tuneful portrait of this legendary song-and-dance man.
On July 4, 1878, Little Georgie, “The Yankee Doodle Kid,” is born in Providence, Rhode Island. His parents, Jerry and Nellie Cohan, leave little doubt about their newborn’s future. “That boy,” says Jerry, “is not putting a foot on a stage till he’s 18 or 19 or even 21 — months!”
In the ensuing dance routine, little Georgie blossoms from tentative young hoofer to confident song-and-dance man. Under George’s direction, The Four Cohans (now including younger sister Josie) arrive at the Columbia Theatre in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to audition for the powerful theater impresario, E.F. Albee. George is certain Albee will book them into New York, but Albee offers a two-week stand in Poughkeepsie instead. Undaunted, George and the Four Cohans boldly set off for New York anyway. Georgie books the act into the Adams Street Theatre, sharing the bill with singer Ethel Levey. Soon, Ethel and George are married.
George decides to refocus the act, now billed as The Five Cohans. They’re through with vaudeville’s fifteen-minute skits, he announces. From now on, it’s the full two-and-a-half hours, and that means musical comedy… and Broadway! George’s first show, The Governor’s Son, flops dismally, but he perseveres, setting his sights on Broadway (“My Town”). George’s next play, Little Johnny Jones, opens just a month later, and it’s a towering success (“Give My Regards to Broadway”).
George and his new producing partner Sam Harris sign singer Fay Templeton, and together they gain fame with hits like “Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway” and “So Long, Mary.” Disheartened and neglected, Ethel divorces George. George is crestfallen, but soon meets and weds singer Agnes Nolan. In a thrilling montage of small scenes, they present a string of legendary hits, including “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Nellie Kelly,” “Harrigan,” “Over There,” and “You’re A Grand Old Flag.”
But soon George realizes that Broadway is changing; the patriotic revues of his youth have given way to a new style, which George resists. After a long self-imposed exile, George is eventually drawn back to the theater when Sam Harris offers him a role in I’d Rather Be Right. Alone on the darkened stage, George remembers a long-ago night when he first came to Broadway. Softly, he begins singing “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Soon he is reliving his old tap routine and delivering the number with abandon. His wife Agnes joins him to reprise “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
After their song, George and Agnes exit the theater… not through the stage door in back, but out front, because, as George says, “That’s where Broadway is!”
Music and Lyrics by George M. Cohan
Book by Michael Stewart and John and Francine Pascal
Lyrics and Musical Revisions by Mary Cohan
Produced on Broadway by David Black,
Konrad Matthaei and Lorin E. Price
Directed and Choreographed for Broadway by Joe Layton
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2 Violin I
1 Violin II
1 Bass (& optional Tuba)
1 Reed I: Piccolo, Flute & Clarinet
1 Reed II: Clarinet (and optional Oboe & English Horn)
1 Reed III: Flute & Clarinet
1 Reed IV: Clarinet, Bassoon (& optional Bass Clarinet)
2 Trumpet I & II
1 Trumpet III
1 Trombone I
1 Trombone II
Timpani, Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Field Drum, Tom Tom, Cymbals (Suspended, Hi-Hat, Choke with Bass Drum), Fight Gong, Bells, Xylophone, Wood Blocks, Cow Bell, Triangle, Bird Whistle, Wind Whistle.
Piano (Piano-Conductor’s Score sent with rehearsal material); contains pit orchestra Piano-Celeste part and music for Stage Player Piano, Pianos I & II and ad lib. Accordion.
Stage Band: (all music included in pit orchestra parts)
1 Piano Conductor’s Score (Two Volume Set)
1 Prompt Book for Director
30 Prompt Books for Cast
30 Chorus-Vocal Parts
George M. Cohan
Rose (Fay Templeton’s Maid)
Mrs. Red Deer
Freddie (Fay Templeton’s Manager)
Secretary (in Cohan & Harris office)
Piano Player (in Cohan & Harris office)
Second Little Girl
Boy in Pushcart
Many of the above players doubled in several other roles.
GEORGE M! opened April 10, 1968 at the Palace Theatre on Broadway, where it played for 433 performances, starring Joel Grey, Jerry Dodge, Betty Ann Grove and Bernadette Peters.
The Tony Award for Best Choreography (Joe Layton)
The Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance (Bernadette Peters)
Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Musical
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