Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Tavern

The Tavern
Scranton Shakespeare Festival, University of Scranton - Royal Theatre,
150 cap, Free admish.

The Scranton Shakespeare Festival's production of George M. Cohan's The Tavern was quite the delight, with a lot of strange goings on at Freeman's Tavern on a dark and stormy night. The action is punctuated by crashes of thunder. Colin Holmes as Zach Freeman the innkeeper's son, was quite amusing, as was Kiley Lutz playing Sally the servant girl. Joe McGurl as Zaccheus Freeman, the innkeeper, and Lebron Lackey as Willum, the dim witted hired hand, were both very well played as well. Conor McGuigan was most outstanding as the Vagabond. To be fair the Vagabond got most of Cohan's best lines:
Freeman: "Are you crazy?"
Vagabond: "Yes, as crazy as you think I am-and as sane as you think you are."
Samantha Morales as Violet the strange woman was more than amusing, as was Camille Reinecke playing Virginia, the Governor's daughter. The rest of the cast, Matthew Barter as Governor Lamson; Jessica McDonough as Mrs Lamson; David English as Tom, Virginia's fiance; Michael Kranick as the Sheriff; Cillian P. Byrne and Daniel Mauro as the Sheriff's men; and Conor O' Brien as Stevens the attendant, were also quite well played. This was a most outstanding production, done by a well talented group of young people. One can only hope they plan on doing Return of the Vagabond in the future.
The Tavern was first produced by George M. Cohan in Atlantic City in the summer of 1920. It had it's main stem opening at the George M. Cohan Theatre with Arthur Daly as the Vagabond on September 27, 1920, running 252 performances. The New York crix panned the original, but it became Cohan's favorite as he revived it a number of times both on Broadway, London, and on the road with Cohan himself as the Vagabond. Other notable runs were in May, 1921 at the Hudson Theatre (27 perfs) and 32 perfs at the Fulton Theatre starting on May 19, 1930. A sequel, Return of the Vagabond, opened May 17, 1940 at the National Theatre. While the NY crix panned the show in the daily papers, the weekly crix loved it. Dorothy Parker in Ainslee's Magazine called it " ...entertainment sent from heaven." Robert Benchley in Life (not the more famous Time-Life magazine which began production in 1937, but the earlier one) said " There can no longer be any doubt that George M. Cohan is the greatest man in the world." "Anyone who can write The Tavern and produce it as The Tavern is produced places himself automatically in the class with the gods who sit on Olympus..." (quotes from McCabe, see below).
Ad from the original production.
George M. Cohan as the Vagabond, from the 1921 Hudson Theatre production.
For more information on George M. Cohan, I highly recommend John McCabe's excellent George M. Cohan : The Man Who Owned Broadway, Doubleday, 1973.
All archival images from:  John McCabe, George M. Cohan : The Man Who Owned Broadway.

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