Theater Review: ‘Yankee Doodle’ grand at Pines
What’s not to like about the Pines Dinner Theatre’s latest offering, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” when you have music and lyrics by the great George M. Cohan?
Pines Co-producer Oliver Blatt, who also wrote the book for the musical, has woven into the storyline of Cohan’s life many recognizable tunes, such as “45 Minutes to Broadway,” “Give my Regards to Broadway” and “It’s a Grand Old Flag.”
Playing through July 1, the musical offers interesting highlights into Cohan’s personal relationships and his complex character. From the marriage of Cohan’s Irish parents, to his own troubled marriage, and his run-in with Actors Equity, the script deals with comedy and tragedy, while managing to keep everything upbeat.
The enthusiastic cast of four, in the June 8 performance seen for this review, was headed by Dom Giovanni, who as Cohan sang and tap-danced his way through the ups and downs of that other song and dance man who proudly boasted that he was born on the Fourth of July. Giovanni is appropriately precocious as young Georgie, and at his best as his character comes to grips with his fall from grace, and the death of his father.
There are nice relationship moments between Giovanni and Daniel Pippert as the senior Cohan. The treatment of their last “conversation,” with father Cohan standing in a spotlight in the audience, and Georgie alone on stage in his own spotlight was one of the more original and effective scenes of the evening.
Hannah Michael was appealing as the mother. Young Cohan’s wife was played by Monica Handwerk.
When the four actors were working together as an ensemble, there was much to enjoy: lots of energy and good vocal harmonies.
Blatt’s set changes were streamlined with a series of backdrops on which images were projected, providing some nice visual variety. Costume design by Stacey Yoder was somewhat uneven, but did offer some iconic period designs, as in the stunning Gibson Girl dresses and parasols.
The staging of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is well-timed on this the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Cohan wrote “Over There,” a patriotic, morale-raising song for the troops for which he received a Congressional Medal of Honor from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In being remembered again at the Pines Dinner Theatre, Cohan might just respond as he did after every performance of the Four Cohans: “My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.”
Tickets: Pines Dinner Theatre box office, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown; pinesdinnertheatre.com; 610-433-2333