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"Cagney" Stars Robert Creighton at Westside Theatre/Upstairs
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"Cagney" Stars Robert Creighton at Westside Theatre/Upstairs

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Riki Kane Larimer
in association with
Jamie deRoy, Joe Cecala, Barbara Freitag,
Joel B. Grossman, Emily Conner

Presents:

Cagney
(Cagney Website)

Starring:
Robert Creighton

Book by Peter Colley
Music & Lyrics by:
Robert Creighton and Christopher McGovern
Arrangements by Christopher McGovern

With:
Jeremy Benton, Danette Holden, Bruce Sabath,
Josh Walden, Ellen Zolezzi

Directed by Bill Castellino
Choreography by Joshua Bergasse

At
Westside Theatre/Upstairs
407 West 43rd Street
212.239.6200

Scenic Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: Martha Bromelmeier
Lighting Design: Michael Gilliam
Sound Design: Janie Bullard
Projection Design: Mark Pirolo
Press: Richard Hillman Public Relations
Music Coordinator: Larry Lelli
Music Direction: Matt Perri
Fight Directors; Christian Kelly-Sordelet
Rick Sordelet
Casting: Carol Hanzel
Production Stage Manager: Larry Smiglewski
Advertising: Hofstetter + Partners / Agency 212
Marketing: Leann Schanzer Promotions, Inc.
General Management: Briarpatch Productions
Production Management: Tinc Productions LLC


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 1, 2016


Robert Creighton not only looks like a young Cagney, in height, features, muscularity, and gesture, but he also co-wrote music and lyrics with Christopher McGovern, quite a team! Mr. McGovern also wrote Cagney’s music arrangements, and Peter Colley wrote the book. The rising star choreographer, Joshua Bergasse, who made Broadway’s On the Town such a winner, is on hand here at the Westside Theatre, as well as Bill Castellino, Director, and, with their crème de la crème technical team, Cagney is the most fantastic Off-Broadway musical I’ve seen, maybe ever. This show, that began at The York Theatre Company, is surely headed for Broadway and on national tour. With some minor cast and script adjustments, I can see long lines at Cagney’s next box office, with ticket buyers humming and clicking their heels to “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.

The intimate, dazzling show opens in 1978, as Cagney receives the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Then, through poignant and dynamic flashbacks, we watch James Cagney’s life unfold, from New York’s Lower East Side, where Cagney worked a variety of jobs that he found in the classifieds, while enjoying home-cooked meals from Ma Cagney (Danette Holden) in his tough Irish neighborhood, to his relationship with brother Bill (Josh Walden), who produced several of Cagney’s films, to his meeting and marrying Willie (Ellen Zolezzi), the love of his life. There are projected posters and reenacted scenes from films from Hollywood heaven, of the gangster genre, like the 1931, “The Public Enemy”, where Cagney shoves a half grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face, and of the tap and song genre, like “Grand Old Flag” from the 1942, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Playing Cagney playing George M. Cohan, Mr. Creighton was extraordinary, and consistently superb throughout both acts.

Jeremy Benton is unfortunately miscast as Bob Hope, not a lookalike, not even a sound-alike, but Hope and Cagney wowed us with that table tap routine from the 1955, “The Seven Little Foys”. As Jack Warner, Cagney’s friend, nemesis, boss, and kingmaker, Bruce Sabath drew me in. He exuded just that extra touch of Tinseltown treachery, giving Warner showcased power plays. The scenes with Cagney pushing for new, inspiring roles and Warner pushing for repetitive gangster roles, driving Cagney in and out and back into Warner Brothers, were gripping. There were also fragments of Cagney’s struggle with the 1950’s anti-Communist witch-hunts among Hollywood elites. This show is expertly efficient, with members of the cast doubling in roles and ensemble numbers. The chronologies and cohesion of the production could be more clarified, with some of the rear stage projections and action moved front stage.

As the new star in town, Robert Creighton deserves kudos, and I look forward to seeing him again, hopefully in this show on the big stage. Mr. Bergasse’s tap routines are vibrant, vivacious, and volatile. James Morgan’s scenery fits well for the Westside, with a brightly lit frame, along with Mark Pirolo’s historical film projections. Martha Bromelmeier’s costumes were early- and mid-20th century perfect. Michael Gilliam’s lighting allowed the projections and dance routines to shine, and Janie Bullard’s sound was crisp and clear. Kudos to Robert Creighton, and kudos to James Cagney.



Robert Creighton (center)
and the Cast of "Cagney"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



Josh Walden, Ellen Zolezzi, Jeremy Benton
in "Cagney"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg



Bruce Sabath and Danette Holden
in "Cagney"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net