George M. Cohan song and dance is grand old fun


With the exception of "1776," the Peter Stone-Sherman Edwards musical that tells the tale of the writing of the Declaration of Independence with humor and song, there can be no better theatrical complement to the Fourth of July than a show by George M. Cohan.

The youngsters of the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre capped off this year's Independence Day celebration Tuesday evening with an energetic, high-stepping presentation of George "45 Minutes from Broadway," into which director Bob Rude appropriately inserted such patriotic fare as Cohan's "Grand Old Flag," "Over There" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

The show is a cute, period farce that features a dead millionaire, a missing will, an actor who thinks he's come to wealth, his ditsy fiancee, a shifty mother-in-law to be and, of course, Mary, the loving house maid whose "grand old name" inspired one of Cohan's most memorable tunes.

Add an ensemble of partying hangers-on in tap shoes and you've pretty much got the gist of the show.

Some very talented kids will be gracing the Summer Garden stage during the run of "Broadway."

Jeremy Corwin, well on his way to becoming a first-rate song and dance man, lights up the stage every second he's on it. When his voice and sense of pitch mature, watch out!

Brigit Murray is hilarious as the prissy housekeeper, and Jill Koethcke also is a riot as the shifty mother who would have her daughter marry the "millionaire" actor.

Lauren Shaw displays a comic touch as the klutzy daughter, and Jonathan Lidz is pleasant enough as the affable Thespian.

The "big gun," though, is the lovely Evelina Marchetti, whose poised, graceful portrayal of Mary is the show's highlight.

The ensemble numbers are great fun, especially the rousers that close the acts.

Improvements? Well, it's early in the run and things could get better. The song "Goodbye Flo" needs much more work; it was a mess. The miked voice that talks to Cohan needs to come across with much more personality. And why was the song "Mary" conducted as a dirge on the accompanying tape?

Technical aspects also need to be addressed. The sound system, complete with a foghorn blast in "Yankee Doodle Dandy," acted up all night long. At times, I thought I'd been transported into a wind tunnel.

But, like the big band concert that could be heard from the other end of the block, the glitches hardly seemed to bother the kids at all.

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