Drew B. James to Star in Surflight Theatre's GEORGE M!, Running 6/19-7/7

Surflight Theatre, under the leadership of Executive Director Ken Myers, presents the Yankee Doodle Dandy song and dance musical comedy George M!, from June 19 through July 7. Opening night is June 20 at 8:00pm.

Through song and dance, the musical George M! tells the life story of George M. Cohan, a giant of the American musical theater who gave America such songs as "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Over There," "You're A Grand Old Flag," and "Give My Regards to Broadway," who transformed the Broadway variety show into a book-driven musical where song and dance advance plot. Cohan was a quintessential showman, often combining patriotic fervor with Broadway razzle-dazzle.

George M! features direction and choreography by Norb Joerder (Surflight's The Boy Friend), with music direction by Henco Espag.

The cast features Drew B. James as George M. Cohan, James Young (Broadway: My Fair Lady, Crazy for You) as Jerry Cohan,Sally Ann Swarm (Broadway: Cats, Camelot) as Nellie Cohan, Eliza Hayes Maher (Seussical Theatreworks USA national tour) as Josie Cohan, Theatre World Award-winner and Tony nominee Meg Bussert as Fay Templeton, Mary Ellen Ashley (Encores! 70, Girls, 70) as Madame Grimaldi, Sarah Beling, Mark Blowers, Tom De Michele, Amanda Fannon, Matthew Greenberg, Tommy Joscelyn, T.J. Larke, Amelia Millar, ElizaBeth Miller, and Jeff Sullivan.

The book for the George M! was written by Michael Stewart (Bye, Bye, Birdie; Carnival; Hello, Dolly!), John Pascal and Francine Pascal, featuring the music and lyrics of George M. Cohan, with revisions by Cohan's daughter, Mary Cohan.

The musical is based on both Mr. Cohan's autobiography Twenty Years on Broadway and the Years it Took to Get There and the 1942 film ''Yankee Doodle Dandy,'' in which James Cagney won his only Oscar in the leading role.

After eight previews, the Broadway production of George M! opened April 10, 1968 at the Palace Theatre, where it ran for 433 performances. The cast included Tony-winner Joel Grey (fresh from his overnight success as the M.C. in Cabaret) as George M. Cohan, Jerry Dodge, Betty Ann Grove, Bernadette Peters, Jill O'Hara, and Harvey Evans. Joe Layton received the 1968 Tony Award for Best Choreography and Bernadette Peters won the Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance. Joel Grey starred in the 1970 NBC televised version with Jack Cassidy, Nanette Fabray, Bernadette Peters, and Blythe Danner. Surflight Theatre previously presented George M! in 1969, 1976, 1985 and 2002.

Taking on the title role is NY based actor Drew B. James, a 2013 graduate of the Steinhardt School at New York University where he majored in Vocal Performance. His numerous NYU performance credits include: Sweet Smell of Success (Ensemble), The Most Happy Fella (Ensemble, Dance Captain), Children of Eden (Cain), Street Scene (Dick McGann), Fiorello! (Ed Peterson, Dance Captain), Celebration (Orphan), and City of Angels (Buddy Fidler). James will also play Luther Billis in Surflight Theatre's South Pacific.

Director/Choreographer Norb Joerder numerous credits include the 1993 Broadway revival of Camelot starring Robert Goulet, and most recently Irving Berlin's White Christmas at the Kennedy Center. Norb will be directing Surflight's musicals this year includingSouth Pacific, Les Miserables, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown and White Christmas.

George M! is designed by Stephen Cowles (sets), Anna Hillbery (costumes), Benjamin Weill (lighting), Mark Keeler (sound). Michael Iannelli is production stage manager.

George Michael Cohan (1878-1942), often referred to as the "Man who owned Broadway," was a playwright, producer, performer, and composer, all in one. This Providence, Rhode Island born talent got his start at the age of nine, when he first graced the stage. He went on to star in The Four Cohans, a popular vaudeville attraction also featuring his fellow show-biz family members. He was just 16 years old when, in 1894, he sold his first song to Witmark Music Publishing. Cohan's first play hit Broadway in NYC in 1901, and real success followed three years later when he played Yankee Doodle Boy in his musical Little Johnny Jones (1904). Cohan, known for his hustle and bustle style, wrote approximately 20 plays and musical comedies, in many of which he played the lead. Some examples of his work include Forty-five Minutes from Broadway (1905), Seven Keys to Baldpate (1913), The Song and Dance Man (1923), and The Merry Malones (1927). He also performed in other artists' productions, including Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! (1933) and Rodgers and Hart's I'd Rather Be Right (1937). Cohan died in New York City on November 5, 1942. On September 11, 1959, Oscar Hammerstein II presented an eight-foot high, bronze statue of Cohan in the heart of Times Square on Broadway.

Surflight Theatre is located at 201 Engleside Avenue in historic Beach Haven, NJ. Performances of George M! are Tuesday at 2pm and 8pm; Wednesday at 2pm; Thursday at 2pm and 8pm; Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $45, with Groups (15 or more) $35 dinner packages available. NEW: Surflight is offering military and veteran discounts: 50% off the full ticket price of all Surflight Theatre events for active military and veterans with ID. Call the Surflight Theatre Box Office at 609-492-9477 or purchase online at www.surflight.org.
Next on the Surflight Theatre stage is Rodgers and Hammertein's South Pacific (July 10 - 28), the world's most popular musical Les Miserables (July 31 - August 24), the Peanuts musical You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (August 28 - September 8), the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town (September 25 - October 4), and Irving Berlin's White Christmas(November 29 - December 22).

photo credit: Charlie Siedenburg

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