If you are still feeling patriotic after the Fourth of July, The REP's production of Georgie Boy!, James Kall's tribute to the great American songwriter George M. Cohan, plays through Sunday at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Although the show is barely more than songs by Cohan interspersed with brief snippets of biographical information, spoken by figures from his life, co-directors Diana Evans Pulliam and Robyn Peterman-Zahn keep it moving at a lively pace.
Kurtis Brown portrays the title character archly, with decent dancing and serviceable singing. Chris Bryant and Katie Owen, as his parents, also have pleasant voices. Margie Wiemann, a leggy dancer and squeaky singer, plays George's sister Josie with lots of plucky personality.
There are a couple of standouts among the featured performers as well. Jennifer Parr vamps amusingly through Mary's a Grand Old Name in character as the vaudeville star Fay Middleton. Evan Pulliam exerts a tremendous amount of energy in leading an audience singalong at the entr'acte.
The show seems built around the ensemble of high-stepping dancers, whose routines are indeed the highlight of the evening, undermined by somewhat slapdash production values. An excellent six-piece band, conducted from the keyboard by musical director Julian Bryson, helps to raise the level of the whole show considerably, although the sound design is tinny and shrill, doing a disservice to the singers' voices.
The sound problems, however, are not solely responsible for the lack of intelligibility of the spoken and sung words. At Friday night's opening performance, hardly anyone's diction came through with clarity or expression. The audience should never have to fight to get the text — that is entirely the responsibility of the performers, and failing to fulfill it is, in basketball terms, like a team missing all its free throws.
Despite these reservations, Georgie Boy! is a nice, light entertainment with some familiar old songs, plus a treat involving the oldest and most familiar song of all. The show begins with a sensational rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by the acoUstiKats, the University of Kentucky's much-lauded male vocal jazz ensemble, a few members of whom enhance the show with their presence in the cast.
IF YOU GO
What: The REP's production of the 1988 musical saluting performer and songwriter George M. Cohan.
When: 3 p.m. July 7
Where: UK Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.
Tickets: $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students. Available at (859) 257-4929 or Singletarycenter.com.
Tedrin Blair Lindsay is a musician, theater artist and lecturer at the University of Kentucky.