The title, YANKEE DOODLE may be familiar, but the story is not. The show, premiering August 5, 2008 at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, is written by David Armstrong (Producing Artistic Director of The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle) and paints a very realistic picture of the star-spangled "Man Who Owned Broadway," George M. Cohan.
YANKEE DOODLE is the dynamic showbiz saga of a brash, charismatic, and uncompromising character whose unstoppable drive gave birth to the myth of Broadway. Cohan's raw passion is embedded deep in the consciousness of every American and continues to influence every musical on Broadway today.
The show began on a beach in Cancun when Armstrong and Albert Evans (who researched and adapted Cohan's songs for the show) were both reading different Cohan biographies. Both men came across a startling fact. Armstrong remembers it like this:
"In 1942, near the end of his life, Cohan who had been bed-ridden for months, got out of his sick bed and had his nurse take him to see the James Cagney movie Yankee Doodle Dandy. After watching the film for fifteen minutes Cohan changed his plan, and instead went to visit his old haunts - the theatres he used to own - the places he used to frequent. They walked all over Time Square, went home and Cohan died! He literally gave his regards to Broadway on one of the last nights of his life. True story."
Armstrong's book offers a grittier Cohan than his hit songs "Give My Regards to Broadway," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and "Over There" might suggest. The show is full of the kind of dancing that built Broadway.
YANKEE DOODLE kicks off Ordway Center's 2008-2009 Theater Season and is the perfect entertainment for an election year.
YANKEE DOODLE is directed and choreographed by James A. Rocco (Ordway Center's Producing Artistic Director) and Jayme McDaniel (Ordway Center's Associate Artistic Director) and stars Sean Martin Hingston (Broadway's Contact and Curtains) as the young Cohan and Richard Sanders (famous as Les Nessman on the hit TV show WKRP in Cincinnati) as the elder Cohan.
The cast features a perfect blend of musical theater veterans from the Twin Cities and beyond: Wisconsin native, Tari Kelly (Broadway's Grinch, The Boy from Oz and Ordway Center's Cabaret and Anything Goes) in dual roles: Ethel, Cohan's first wife, and Georgette, Cohan's daughter; Gary Briggle (Twin Cities acting royalty) as Old Lou the Stage Doorman; Guthrie favorite, Ron Menzel as George's best friend and business partner, Sam Harris; Broadway Vets James Young and Cynthia Ferrer as Cohan's parents Jerry and Nellie; Tiffany Haas (of the recent Drowsy Chaperone tour) as Cohan's sister, Josie, Twin Cities' own Fred Wagner (who gave an amazing performance last season in Next to Normal) as Abe Erlanger and Kacie Riddle returns to the Ordway stage as Cohan's daughter Georgette. Rounding out the ensemble are Tom Danford (Twin Cities), Brian Sostek (Twin Cities), Amanda Paulson, Alexandra Auxman (Twin Cities), Katie Allen (Twin Cities), Marnie Buckner (Twin Cities), Christian DeMarais (Twin Cities), Lisa Bartholomew-Given (Twin Cities), Geoffrey Goldberg, Seth Hoff, Brent McBeth, Krystyn Pope, and Andrew Rasmussen (Twin Cities).
Valerie Gebert (The Lion King national tour) is the musical director and Ivey Winner, Raymond Berg, is the associate musical director.
Marcus Dillard is the lighting designer, Wendell Bell is the sound designer, Chad Van Kekerix is the scenic designer and Tulle & Dye are coordinating the costumes based on Greg Poplyk's original designs. Alex Farino is the Production Stage Manager.