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As mentioned recently in my reviews, I had been a little overwhelmed recently with recordings for review - and most of these have, impressively, been from one label - the excellent Broadway Records. After reviewing the two new releases in their 54 Below series, next up is one of their new cast recordings - Cagney The Musical.
Not even five and a half feet tall, James Cagney’s oversized talent catapulted him from scrappy Irish kid on the streets of New York to Hollywood legend on “the top of the world.” A Vaudeville hoofer turned actor, Cagney made a splash on Broadway before Hollywood called and made him one of the Silver Screen’s most iconic tough guys in legendary films including The Public Enemy, The G Men and White Heat. But it was his turn as song and dance man George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy that earned him the Academy Award and forever cemented his place as one of America’s most beloved movie legends alongside the likes of Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Marlon Brando, Jimmy Stewart, and Fred Astaire.
Cagney’s six-member cast stars Broadway’s Robert Creighton (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Anything Goes) as the legendary James Cagney, with Jeremy Benton (Nat’l Tour of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas), Danette Holden (Broadway’s Annie, Shrek the Musical), Josh Walden (Broadway’s Ragtime, La Cage aux Folles, A Chorus Line), Ellen Zolezzi (Seussical), and Bruce Sabath (Broadway’s Company). Directed by Bill Castellino (Grumpy Old Men, Jolson), with choreography by Tony Award nominee Joshua Bergasse (On the Town, Gigi), Cagney features a book by Peter Colley (I'll Be Back Before Midnight) and score that blends original music by Robert Creighton and Christopher McGovern (Lizzie Borden) with classic George M. Cohan favourites, including 'Give My Regards To Broadway', 'Grand Old Flag', and 'Yankee Doodle Dandy'.
It was only a few years ago where I knew all of the musicals being released, and mourned the ones that weren’t. These days, virtually everything seems to get recorded, and many of the new shows that I get to review I have not heard of prior. This is the case here. I’m pleased to say however that it’s a great listen, and reminded me very much of the musical Chaplin that was released a few years ago. It’s a great mix of new songs and old standards, all of which combine effortlessly into a great sounding score. As usual the production values from Broadway Records are top rate - and a shout-out to Robbie Rozelle for the great artwork, which in my mind continues to be the best in class.
The performances are great, but a special mention to Creighton - a show like this is totally on the shoulders of the lead character, and this is a great performance. I also enjoyed Ellen Zolezzi who plays numerous roles, as do the majority of the cast. The whole recording is accompanied by a very skillfully orchestrated ensemble which sounds much bigger than their number.