A new musical tells the tale of a multi-talented Hollywood legend James Cagney. NY1’s Roma Torre filed the following review of "Cagney.”
The late great James Cagney was a consummate showman. Self-described as a hoofer who got lucky in the movies, he was blessed and, to an extent, cursed with multiple talents. His reputation as an A-list tough-guy in gangster films never sat well with him, preferring instead to do more uplifting work. And of course he could dance…and sing. Given the iconic star’s unique gifts, it would seem nearly impossible for anyone to portray him adequately, but then along came Robert Creighton.
Bearing more than a passing resemblance, it makes sense that Creighton would be intrigued enough to not only play the lead role in Cagney, he also co-wrote the music. But while the show itself is entertaining in an uninspired way, Creighton as Cagney is stupendous. He sings sublimely and, with the help of Joshua Bergasse’s savvy choreography, he brilliantly summons Cagney’s light-on–his-feet dance style. The musical numbers are such a treat.
And then there are the recreations of some of Cagney’s signature roles and lines….starting with the grapefruit smash to the face scene in “Public Enemy” and of course his Oscar winning performance as George M. Cohan in “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” The original songs, composed by Creighton along with Christopher McGovern cannot possibly compete with the Cohan numbers but a few evoke sufficient charm and wit.
The five member supporting cast - led by Bruce Sabath playing studio boss Jack Warner as something of a villain here - forms a fine ensemble, though having to play so many diverse roles including the likes of Bob Hope and Bette Davis all but guarantees there will be hits and some misses.
The book by Peter Colley is fairly standard issue and even with Bill Castellino's energetic direction, the show almost feels more like a revue with stand-alone sketches. But as I say, Creighton as Cagney just kills it.