George M. Cohan's
1904 Musical Comedy
Little Johnny Jones
Featuring "Yankee Doodle Boy" &
"Give My Regards to Broadway"
Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Friday, June 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Cable Recital Hall - Canton Cultural Center for the Arts
1001 Market Avenue North
Canton, Ohio 44702
Photos by Rick Miller
Little Johnny Jones opened on Broadway at the Liberty Theatre on November 7, 1904 and ran a total of 221 performances, returning to New York twice in 1905 and in 1907. The production toured the country from 1905 to 1909 and was seen in Canton at the Grand Opera House on October 7, 1905, January 2, 1906 and April 13, 1906. One of the most popular musical comedies of the turn of the century, Little Johnny Jones was George M. Cohan’s first Broadway success. Cohan, regarded as the “Father of American Musical Theatre,” wrote the book, lyrics and music, produced and directed the production as well as starred in the title role. The original cast featured Cohan’s mother, Nellie, as Mrs. Kenworth and his father, Jerry, as Anstey. The Four Cohan’s (which included his sister Josephine) were a very popular Vaudeville act prior to George’s success on Broadway. Cohan revolutionized musical theatre with Little Johnny Jones, creating for the first time a truly American musical comedy in contrast to the European operetta tradition. One can see the amazing progression from the barely coherent musical extravaganza The Wizard of Oz (written just two years earlier in 1902), to the well-written plot and character-related songs of Little Johnny Jones. American Musical Theatre would never be the same again.
Cohan went on to write over fifty musical comedies and plays including George Washington, Jr. (1906), Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway (1906), The Yankee Prince (1908), and Little Nellie Kelly (1922). Some of his most famous songs include “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Mary,” “Over There,” and
“Harrigan.” A silent film adaptation of Little Johnny Jones was produced in 1924 by Warner Brothers and consequently a talkie version was released in 1929. The 1942 Cohan biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney has all but obscured any memory of Cohan’s original work and performing style. A
completely re-written revival produced by the Goodspeed Opera House was seen on Broadway in 1982 for one performance. The Canton Comic Opera Company’s production of Little Johnny Jones marks the first of the original version in over 80 years.
For this production, director Joseph N. Rubin has restored the original “small” 12-piece touring
orchestrations for this production. The original Broadway production and the first class tours had
approximately a 28-piece orchestra, which was later cut down for the second class tour and stock
performances. The score of Little Johnny Jones went through changes during the four year tour. Cohan added two songs “Nesting in a New York Tree” for Florabelle and “Good Old California” for Hapgood, both of which were not included in the set of orchestra parts used for this restoration. You will be able hear these two numbers in the overture which was compiled and printed after the Broadway premiere. The lyrics for the song “A Girl I Know” were sadly missing from the sole surviving manuscript piano/vocal score. Using similar Cohan songs as a guide, Jonathan McDevitt wrote new lyrics for this number for our production. The libretto has been cut in length by Mr. Rubin, but not re-written, to better lend itself to a concert production. This type of production, in which the cast members carry their books on stage, emphasizes the score and utilizes no sets, costumes and minimal props. Concert productions have proved an extremely popular means of reviving historic operettas and musical comedies, with companies founded solely for their production in New York, London, and other major cities.