Cagney: Theater review by Raven Snook
[Note: This is a review of the production of Cagney that opened at the York Theatre in 2015. The production moves to an open-ended engagement at the Westside Theatre on March 16, 2016, with the same cast.]
Biomusicals are tricky. Boiling all the ups and downs of a celebrity’s life into a couple of tuneful hours is tough, but the biggest challenge is finding a performer who can convincingly channel the star. One glance at Robert Creighton, and you understand why this veteran Broadway character actor spent years bringing regional hit Cagney to the York Theatre Company. A compact, quadruple-threat spitfire (he cowrote the songs), Creighton smartly avoids impersonation and lets some of his own personality shine through in his take on James Cagney, the versatile Golden Age of Hollywood icon who was often pigeonholed as a gangster.
Yes, Peter Colley’s book is predictable and takes liberties, and Creighton and McGovern’s old-fashioned numbers aren’t as catchy as the George M. Cohan standards used in the rousing USO medley. But the crackerjack six-person cast nails choreographer Joshua Bergasse’s exhilarating tap routines while committing to the emotional core of the story. That makes Cagney a York doodle dandy.—Raven Snook
York Theatre Company (Off Broadway). Book by Peter Colley. Music and lyrics by Robert Creighton and Christopher McGovern. Directed by Bill Castellino. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 25mins. One intermission. Through June 21.