The CAGNEY company. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The CAGNEY company. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

By Tulis McCall

I had the complete and total pleasure of seeing Cagney the other night.  Robert Creighton is beyond brilliant in the title role.  Do yourself a favor and hoof on over to the West Side Theatre and see this show.

While the first act lags a little – biographical plays and musicals are always a tough go – in its earnest attempt to document Cagney’s path, the second picks up the pace.  In it we see the dancing for which Cagney was famous.  Yankee Doodle Dandy, Grand Old Flag, and the famous pas de deux with Bob Hope – yes THAT Bob Hope – from the 1955 movie The Seven Little Foys.

Creighton not only nails the  outward Cagney but manages to reveal the inner workings of a man who was an icon but not a human being  to most of us.  His delivery of Tough Guy as Cagney struggles with his life choices is raw and hits you like a cannonball.

And his dancing is sublime.  It’s like this.  Did you ever see an event on television – like a parade or a ball game or any kind of a theatre piece and then, one day, you see that event in person?  You walk into the theatre or the arena or the grandstand and there is a part of you that says “Ohhhhhhh…. NOW I get it.  NOW I get the 360 degree-ness of this thang.  And NOW I am part of it.  I am not just a viewer.  I’m part of this.”  Well, my dear chums, that is what it feels like to watch Creighton dance.  You are shuttled back in time to Vaudeville, the 1930’s and the 1940’s with a nod to the 1950’s as well as the 1978 SAG Awards.  You are breathing different air back there.  And then, just like that, you are returned to your seat.

Creighton is a magician.  One you do not want to miss.  Why are you still reading this?  Get thee to the ticket place.  CAGNEY