Moxie and Music Behind The Glenridge’s George M.

To celebrate July 4th this year,  The Glenridge Performing Arts Center embarked on a rather unusual project complete with song and dance routines, regular rehearsals, professional actors, and a large chorus of the Glenridge Singers.

The Cohan Famiy played by Ben Turoff, Kyle Turoff, Kathryn Parks, Alana Opie, and Charlie Logan

The Cohan Famiy played by Ben Turoff, Kyle Turoff, Kathryn Parks, Alana Opie, and Charlie Logan

For those unfamiliar with The Glenridge, it is the nation’s first Life Fulfilling Community in Sarasota, Florida. They aim to take traditional retirement living to a whole new dimension by focusing on lifelong learning and optimum health. Their multi-million dollar Glenridge Performing Arts Center distinguished itself as an impressive presence in the area’s performing arts halls. A diverse mix of self-produced shows and local and international tours light up the stage of the 267-seat auditorium throughout the year.

And in honor of Independence Day, Manager Ben Turoff teamed with music director Alan Jay Corey on an ambitious endeavor they’d been dreaming about for some time.

Alan Corey leading a rehearsal of the Glenridge Singers.

Alan Corey leading a rehearsal of the Glenridge Singers.

They’d imagined producing a concert version of a musical, bringing in professional performers and combining their talents with a chorus of the retirement center’s very own Glenridge Singers. Dedicated to continued arts education, this group of Glenridge members takes choral classes under the direction of Corey.

So with the 4th of July approaching, they decided it would be the perfect opportunity to produce George M., a patriotic musical celebrating the life of Broadway’s first superstar, George M. Cohan. George not only starred in countless shows – but he wrote the music and lyrics, directed, choreographed and produced them as well

Corey began working with the Glenridge Singers on the chorus numbers while Turoff brought onboard actors Charlie Logan, Alana Opie, Kyle Turoff, Ellie Pattison, Brian Minyard, Sharon Lesley, Roy Johns, Maria Wirries, Roberta MacDonald, and myself.

IMG_3060We held several rehearsals, learned the music (which included well know favorites like Yankee Doodle Dandy, Over There, You’re A Grand Old Flag and Give My Regards to Broadway), and included a touch of choreography and blocking.

It was an educational experience, not only for the chorus who had never sung together in a staged musical setting, but also for the actors – many of whom were unfamiliar with the story of George M. Cohan. (and certainly that included me!) Who doesn’t know the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy and yet we have little context for the songwriter.

Two performances of the show were played to well-attended houses.

Charlie Logan in the title role of George M.

Charlie Logan in the title role of George M.

The Glenridge Singers

The Glenridge Singers

Sharon Lesley (i.e. my mom).

Sharon Lesley (i.e. my mom).

It was a pleasure to be reunited such a stellar team of performers – all of whom I’d worked with before. But it was an especially heartfelt reunion of those of us who’d done shows together at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre – a Sarasota staple of theatre from 1971 – 2013, which produced hundreds of shows and employed countless actors over the years.

Roy Johns, Brian Minyard, and Charlie Logan.

Roy Johns, Brian Minyard, and Charlie Logan.

I hope the Glenridge continues to mount concert versions of classic musicals, bringing together individuals from all walks of life to celebrate the magic of songs and stories onstage.

What concert versions of musicals would you like to see be done at the Glenridge? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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