You just don't get more patriotic than the musical "George M!" with its Americana story and hit songs such as "You're a Grand Old Flag," "Over There" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
Boca Raton's Wick Theatre is staging a fully costumed concert version of the musical about legendary showman George M. Cohan July 2-19, just in time for Fourth of July celebrations.
And if that weren't enough, the show will be narrated by Susan Powell, a former Miss America.
"These kids, oh my, these kids," Powell says of the cast. "I don't know how they do it. They are quadruple threats: They sing, dance, act and they are all gorgeous. They've got, like, 15 dancers and everyone is tapping their hearts out. I love tap dancing. I really do. It's the opposite of all that is wrong with the world. When people tap together, it's all that is right with the world."
Powell, who won the Miss America title in 1981, went on to perform opera with the Boston Pops, the New York City Opera and the Seattle Opera. She and her husband, Richard White ("Gigi," "Jekyll and Hyde" and the voice of Gaston in the animated movie "Beauty and the Beast"), live in Manhattan when they're not on the road appearing in stage musicals. In addition to hosting the TV show "Home Matters" from 1993 to 2004 on the Discovery Channel, Powell has also starred in shows such as "Kiss Me Kate," "Sweeney Todd" and even "George M!" with its original star Joel Grey.
"With Joel Grey it was amazing," she says, reminiscing about the performances in St. Louis in 1992. "He knows that show inside and out. And we kind of toured it playing three places: Atlanta, Kansas City and St. Louis, and he was amazing. He was a force. He really was that force. We became very good friends, actually. He was very kind to me. He's a strong personality, but he liked me. He's as demanding of himself as he is of others."
Those memories hit her during a run-through the other day at the Wick Theatre.
"I started crying when they got into the second act," Powell recalls. "It's all the old music, but the themes are so current and that's what makes it so great. Man, they really knew how to put it all together, and they really knew how to tell a story."
At the beginning of the show, she says, she comes onstage to tell the audience about the show and to introduce some scenes.
"I just try to keep everyone in the year and how old George was when he wrote this and how old he was when he wrote that, and then the actors deliver the scenes and the songs and they do it in full costume," explains Powell, who recently appeared on Comedy Central's "Broad City" sitcom. "It's like we're doing the show, really. And you know, you've got to have great costumes in the Wick [which has a costume museum attached]. I set up these scenes … and how the show is about time, the time of someone's life. From the time he was born, George M was basically on the stage. It's about time and his story and his times."
"George M! In Concert" will run July 2-19 at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, in Boca Raton. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (5 p.m. July 4), with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $55 ($100 for July 4 gala dinner and show). To order, call 561-995-2333 or go to TheWick.org.