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

By Charles Paolino,

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.

originally published: 2018-05-04 00:00:00

From Our Magazine

Theatre Preview: May 2018

Theatre Preview: May 2018

New Jersey Stage takes a look at shows coming to stages around the Garden State with our monthly theatre preview in NJ Stage Magazine.  Issue 46 also contains features on The Nerd at George Street Playhouse and Turning Off The Morning News at McCarter Theatre.  The magazine is available for free at and readable on any PC, tablet, or smartphone.

Turning off the  Morning News

Turning off the Morning News

The award-winning playwright and New Jersey native, Christopher Durang, is back with Turning Off The Morning News - his third World Premiere commission for McCarter Theatre in Princeton. It serves as a follow up to his Tony Award-winning play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and runs from May 4th through June 3rd.

The Making Of A Broadway Musical

The Making Of A Broadway Musical

It all starts with the lyric hook.  That’s one of the central building blocks behind the dynamic musical theatre team of Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann.  

Theatre Preview: April 2018

Theatre Preview: April 2018

Each month, New Jersey Stage provides a special advertising section promoting plays hitting stages around the Garden State. Make sure to add your plays to the event calendar to have them seen by thousands.  Event listings are always free.

Event calendar
Sunday, May 20, 2018


Elvana @ The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

OH WHAT A NIGHT OF DOO WOP & ROCK N ROLL VOLUME II @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 3:00pm

The British Invasion Years Dinner Show @ iPlay America, Freehold - 4:30pm


Dean Shot's Tribute to Howlin' Wolf @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:00pm


I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 2:00pm

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee @ The Ritz Theatre, Haddon Twp - 2:00pm

Issei, He Say @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 2:00pm

The Nerd @ George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick - 2:00pm

Turning Off the Morning News @ Berlind Theatre @ McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Appropriate @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 3:00pm

Aspire PAC Auditions - Disney's The Lion King JR./Thoroughly Modern Millie @ Our Lady of Consolation (Ministry Center - Wayne), Wayne - 10:00am


New Jersey Ballet’s Cinderella @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 1:30pm and 4:30pm


The Illusionists – Live from Broadway @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 3:00pm and 7:00pm

View all events


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