17 November 2009
20 years onward: George M!
The Par Ki musical of 1989 was George M! Pictured are Lynette, Mike, Rachel, and Peter. They possibly don't recollect ever being in this show.
It's been 20 years since the production since the Par Ki production of George M! Can you believe it?
Well, no. It's a rather forgettable show.
However, old Georgie was the last of the great big D.O. productions. Yeah, he did do 42nd Street the following year but the production values of that show were vastly different than the epic George M! and had a different production staff. That was D.O's swan song. George M! was his War and Peace.
George M! weighed in at just a smidgen under 3 hours as I recall. Ok maybe more like 2 and some change. But this was a monstrous musical in which much of the book was re-written or added on to to make it a somewhat coherent bio-musical of George M. Cohan.
Out of the gate George M! was not that great a musical. It hardly garnered any plaudits in its Broadway run in the late 1960's. Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters headlined the cast with the great Joe Layton directing. It ran about 1 season before disappearing entirely from Broadway repertoire. It shows up occasionally on the community theater circuit.
I love Cohan, his life and his music but George M! was sort of a messy undertaking, hence I reason the need for rewrites and added material for the Par Ki production. I think George M Tonight is probably the superior show about Cohan.
Back to the Par Ki production. It was my first production in high school so it holds a special place in my heart. I think I was unofficially the understudy to George. I remember one night, it was getting close to curtain and the guy who played George had not shown. That's actually when I learned I was the understudy. Boy, the communication about that was bad. Today I could probably pull it off. Back then, I'd be on a wing and a prayer.
I recall some stunts we pulled the last 2 performances. In the boarding house scene (Madame Grimaldi I presume) I had placed some fake eyeballs in the soup turine. Man the actors really reacted to that. Then I think I did a random walk on bit during some street scene. I seem to remember one cast member doing a walk on bit soliciting a prostitute in the same street scene.
There may still be a video of 1 or 2 performances of the musical out there. The last time I looked I think the tape was nearing brokenness.
The original George M! showed up on in a TV special starring Grey and Peters in the 70s but its rare. I believe there is a clip on YouTube.
Georgie certainly hasn't been forgotten as his birthplace Providence, R.I. most recently erected a statue of him this summer.