Richard and I saw *Cagney* off Broadway on 10/14. A dear friend and former boss of his is one of the producers, we've been anxious to see the show. It's a musical about James Cagney: growing up on the Lower East Side, rising up through vaudeville, becoming a hit on Broadway, going to Hollywood, becoming a big star, feeling fossilized in his gangster persona, getting smeared by HUAC, being honored late in life. The whole bit, a paint by numbers bio.
The show had a strong whiff of dinner theatre. All we needed was the rubbery chicken and overcooked broccoli. There was a cast of six, all acting, singing, and tapping their little hearts out. The audience loved it. We didn't love it as much. It was very professionally done and clearly knew what it was doing, and what its audience wants, but it didn't really turn our cranks.
The show will only work with the right guy playing Cagney, and whadya know, Robert Creighton also co-wrote the songs. He was fantastic, full of verve, gave a performance and not just an impersonation. The highlight of the show was the tap battle between Cagney and Jeffry Denman as Bob Hope.
Richard complained the week before that *Tristan und Isolde* was too long. But I felt like this was even longer than that. Now, how can two hours and twenty minutes be longer than five and a half hours, you ask? The difference is that *T & I* NEEDS to be over five hours long, it's built into the experience, it needs to be epic in its scope to really work. A two-hour edited version of *T & I* would be an interesting experience, but it wouldn't be right. *Cagney* is a diverting evening in the theatre, with nothing deep or original in it. A show like that should be no longer than 90 minutes without intermission, or two hours with intermission. Those extra twenty minutes really have a big impact, and not in a good way.