By Lauren Yarger
Never under estimate the ability of an Off-Broadway production to entertain on a Broadway level.
Cagney, starring Robert Creighton as the song-and-dance-man/gangster actor is getting a revised production at the West Side Theatre Off-Broadway following its New York premiere at the York last Spring and it's one Yankee doodle of a musical.
Creighton, who received Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations (the show has racked up a bunch of nominations in various awards for theater and dance his season), gives an outstanding performance as James Cagney. Set to music and lyrics by Creighton and Christopher McGovern (who also arranges), the story (with a book by Peter Colley) tells the story of the scrappy kid who takes a job as a dancer to help support his mother (Danette Holden) and brother, Bill (Josh Walden -- I saw understudy Freddie Kimmel).
He takes Vaudeville by storm and soon gets a call from Jack Warner (Bruce Sabath), head of one of Hollywood's powerhouse studios, to come to LA. He finds himself playing a bunch of "You dirty rat!" gangsters and eventually leaves Warner to try to make the kind of films he wants to, like "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Songs like George M. Cohan favorites "Give My Regards To Broadway," "You’re A Grand Old Flag" and the title song also are featured in the musical. Matt Perri music Directs and conducts the five-man band.
Exciting, tapping choreography by Joshua Bergasse makes the six-person ensemble seem much larger as the actors sing and dance through the actor's life story, tightly directed by Bill Castellino. Colley does a nice job of selecting events from Cagney's life to include (no tendency here, as in so many biographical shows, to try to highlight every moment from the subject's life.) The stories of his romance and marriage to entertainer Willie Vernon (Ellen Zolezzi), his pro-labor politics and run-in with McCarthyism, his friendship with Bob Hope (Jeremy Benton) are nicely blended and enhanced by projection designs by Mark Pirolo on James Morgan's set.
The highlight of the entertaining show is Creighton's performance -- a role he embodies as if born to play it.
Cagney is playing an open-ended run at the Westside Theatre, upstairs at 407 West 43rd St., NYC.For performances through July 3, 2016: Tuesday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.
For performances beginning July 5, 2016: Tuesday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Thursday at 2 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.
Tickets are $89- $109: cagneythemusical.com; 212-239-6200. There are a limited number of $25 student rush tickets for each performance (two tickets per person, cash only with valid student ID.)
Additional credits:Martha Bromelmeier (costumes), Michael Gilliam (lights), Janie Bullard (sound), Larry Lelli (music coordinator) and Christian Kelly-Sordelet and Rick Sordelet (fight directors).
-- No content notes. Enjoy.