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George M Cohan Tonight! review at New Players London

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There is something irresistible about the performer who was dubbed The Man Who Owned Broadway. As New York hurtled into the 20th century, a crucible of multiculturalism, this “land of hurry up” was on the verge of developing a whole new style of popular entertainment that would become musical theatre. George M Cohan was at the hub of this development, singing and hoofing his way into the history books as the man who wrote Give My Regards To Broadway and who’s statue looks out over Times Square.

Despite the opportunity for excitement, romance, fervent patriotism and shameless sentimentality, Chip Deffaa’s biopic is a dull, achingly formulaic one-man show that features thirty of Cohan’s most popular numbers studded with intermittent monologue. There is simply no invention here and certainly no attempt to create either drama or spectacle on stage. The result is the musical equivalent of a Channel Five daytime documentary. David Herzog has the gargantuan task of bringing Cohan to life on stage and despite being a very capable triple-threat, he has nowhere near the talent and less of the charisma to pull off such an icon of the stage.

Edmund Sutton’s set is wholly unsuited to the cavernous New Players and the revelation during You’re A Grand Old Flag is a triumph of unimaginative, almost laughable staging. George M Cohan was the ultimate showman and his work reflected the prevailing mood and passion of the golden era of Broadway. Deffaa may style himself the foremost living authority on George M Cohan but he appears to know nothing about musical theatre.

Production Information

New Players, London, September 21-October 16

Chip Deffaa, George M Cohan (music)
Musical Director
Christopher Ash
Bart Williams
Spitalfields Theatrical Limited
David Herzog
Running time
1hr 30mins

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