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A Look At Kevin Cahoon, Director of "The Nerd" at George Street Playhouse

By Charles Paolino

originally published: 05/04/2018

A Look At Kevin Cahoon, Director of "The Nerd" at George Street Playhouse

Before there was “American Idol” there was “Star Search,” and before there was Carrie Underwood there was Kevin Cahoon.

Cahoon won a singing championship on “Star Search” in 1985, when he was 13, and now he’s directing “The Nerd” for the George Street Playhouse.

A lot happened in the interim.

His most recent project is a play written by the late Larry Shue.

The Nerd, a two-act farce that premiered in Milwaukee in 1981, has had a successful history, including runs on Broadway and London’s West End, and it still turns up frequently in regional and community theaters.

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The action swirls around Willum Cubbert of Terre Haute, Indiana, an architect who is designing a hotel for a client whose taste in design tends toward the Soviet.  

Although he was a noncombatant, Willum was injured during service in Vietnam and survived only because a wounded GI who came across him dragged him more than a mile to safety.

Willum was not conscious during the ordeal and never met his savior, though he did learn that the man’s name was Rick Steadman, and the two exchanged some greetings through the mail.

But Willum got a little careless with his greetings and issued the kind of invitation that one issues while thinking that it will never be accepted: “If you’re ever in Terre Haute ….”

At a moment when his chronic indecisiveness is muddying both his romantic and professional lives, he gets a phone message to the effect that Rick is in town and is calling in his marker.

Willum is excited at first, but then his visitor arrives—an annoying, nervy, myopic character who offends everyone he meets and creates chaos wherever he goes.

This is the kind of play in which cottage cheese is introduced as a subplot, and Cahoon said that the silliness has to be orchestrated.

“You want to have it build,’’ he said. “You want to make sure there is not too much anarchy too soon. You want to save the peak comedic mayhem for the right moment.’’

At the same time, he said, the audience has to accept what’s happening to the characters on stage as plausible.

“You have to ground it in reality,” he said. “Rick has to be enough of an oddball to make these things real. The character comes in and hijacks their lives, and we should feel that way as we watch the play as well.”

Although it’s a farce, and quite broad at times, Shue gave The Nerd a couple of serious themes—one having to do, as Cahoon put it, with “not being completely  consumed with one’s own “sturm und drang” and the other with “doing an unselfish act for another person that, in turn, will be more fulfilling for you.”

“I think this play is accessible to every audience member,” Cahoon said. “It’s hilarious, and it has a big heart.”

This is not Cahoon’s first directing assignment. He has overseen productions at the Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theatre and at the Ars Nova Theatre in New York.

He has a long acting resume on stage, television, and film, including roles in the Broadway productions of Tommy, The Lion King, The Wedding Singer, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

He has also had a career in music, including gigs at many New York venues with his band, Kevin Cahoon and Ghetto Cowboy.

The Houston native began performing when he was very young, appearing in rodeos in Texas and Oklahoma, and he began acting in local theaters when he was 10.

“I have spent my life as part of the arts,” he said. 

“My mom saw something in me. I was obsessed with the circus and rodeo—events where people were watching a spectacle. I loved it.

“When I was seven or eight, she said, ‘Let’s put him in a creative-arts summer program and see if that’s an interest. Let’s give him what he wants.’”

Cahoon said his father had appeared in rodeos and his parents met at a rodeo club when they were in high school, so they had a little taste of the sawdust.

“They supported me every step of the way,” he said. “I have been very lucky.”

The Nerd runs through May 20 at George Street’s temporary location, 103 College Farm Road, New Brunswick.

PHOTO: (L to R) Zach Shaffer, Ann Harada, Jonathan Kite, Kevin Cahoon, Colin Hanlon, Hayden Bercy, Stephen Wallem and Kate Reinders. Photo credit: George Street Playhouse.

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Event calendar
Saturday, Dec 15, 2018


DOWNSTREAM @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

LIFE OF AGONY/SICK OF IT ALL @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 6:30pm

JOHNNY O @ Lobby Bar at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 10:00pm

WEIRD SCIENCE @ Hard Rock Cafe at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 10:00pm

The THE BAND Band @ Darress Theatre, Boonton - 8:00pm

Brian Fallon @ Crossroads (Garwood), Garwood - 8:00pm

KASHMIR THE LIVE LED ZEPPELIN SHOW @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

Holiday POPS! @ Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton - 3:00pm and 6:00pm

TAKING BACK SUNDAY @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 7:00pm

Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

The Beat Tells @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm

The Metropolitan Opera: La Traviata @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 1:00pm


Elf, The Musical @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 7:00pm and 7:30pm

A Christmas Story @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Seussical @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 7:30pm

Peter Pan @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 7:30pm

A CHRISTMAS CAROL @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm


A Wonderful Life @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 8:00pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

A Charlie Brown Christmas @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 1:30pm and 3:30pm

Hudson Theatre Works presents "And My True Love Gave To Me" @ Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken - 8:00pm


Louie Anderson @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm


NEW JERSEY BALLET’S NUTCRACKER WITH NEW JERSEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 1:00pm and 6:00pm

Forces of Nature Dance Theatre with special guest Sweet Honey In The Rock @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:30pm


Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert Live to Film @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

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