MOM THEATRE BLOGGER: CAGNEY: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

cagney photo

Photo by Carol Rosegg

I’ve always enjoyed James Cagney films, but it’s been quite some time since I watched one of his classics.  Thanks to the new exhilarating and heartfelt Off Broadway musical, Cagney, I’ve rediscovered Cagney, both as a performer and a man, and I’m all the more impressed.  This musical is a joyous tribute to a talented New Yorker whose fancy footwork and captivating stage presence carved an indelible niche for himself in Hollywood, whether toting a gun or tap shoes.

Cagney, presented by Producer Riki Kane Larimer, paints a portrait of a man as loyal to his family as his fans were, and are, to him. In an effort to help support his mother and brother, Cagney tackled show business first as a vaudeville song-and-dance man (even when dressed as a woman) and ultimately becomes an unexpected megastar with a cult following for his many infamous gangster roles.

Cagney has a book by Peter Colley and music & lyrics by Robert Creighton and Christopher McGovern. While Cagney was a lover devoted to his beautiful wife, he was also a fighter, pitching for varied roles and rights as an actor and defending himself when accused of communism.

A natural, athletic hoofer with a feisty personality, Cagney is a beloved icon, and Robert Creighton does him justice and then some.  Creighton, himself, who is earnest in his portrayal, is a triple threat and more, as the star and co-writer of the musical, and he is well supported by Jeremy Benton, Danette Holden, Bruce Sabath, Josh Walden, and Ellen Zolezzi, each effectively playing multiple roles.  Zolezzi as Willie, a fellow performer and his devoted wife, turns in a tender performance and has a sweet voice, and Sabath as Jack Warner. embodies the crustiness of the demanding studio head.  Benton shows quite a range as Bob Hope and others, as does Holden as Ma Cagney and others.  Walden, as Bill Cagney, Jimmy’s brother, is highly likeable.

Director Bill Castellino keeps things moving, and choreography by Joshua Bergasse is inspired.  Musical direction, by Matt Perri, nicely blends original music with classic George M. Cohan favorites: Give My Regards To Broadway, You’re A Grand Old Flag, and Yankee Doodle Dandy.  There are a number of strong standout numbers including “Falling in Love,” a lighthearted duet between Cagney and Willie as they struggle to proclaim their love for each other, and “USO Medley,”a particularly impressive tap number.  What a pleasure to see an Off Broadway show deliver a full out ensemble dance number that brings down the house, when so many Broadway musicals these days are lacking in that arena.

 The creative team includes James Morgan (set), Martha Bromelmeier (costumes), Michael Gilliam (lights), Janie Bullard (sound), Mark Pirolo (projections), Larry Lelli (music coordinator), and Christian Kelly-Sordelet and Rick Sordelet (fight directors).

Cagney is playing at The Westside Theatre – Upstairs, 407 West 43 Street.  Tickets may be purchased by calling Telecharge: 212-239-6200, or by visiting 

Just like Cagney himself, Cagney, the musical, is high energy and fun and packs a theatrical punch.

For details, visit

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