Warner Bros.

In 'Cagney' the musical, Hollywood's tough guy tap dances

In 'Cagney' the musical, Hollywood's tough guy tap dances

James Cagney is remembered best for playing tough-talking gangsters in Warner Bros. movies in the 1930s and ’40s, which, according to “Cagney,” a loving and cartoonish small-scale bio-musical playing at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, is exactly how he didn’t want to be remembered.

After years of portraying one dumb, trigger-happy, woman-slapping Irishman after another, as his character complains in the colorful period dialogue of Peter Colley’s book, Cagney started his own production company so he could take on more nuanced roles — ideally involving tap-dancing, the skill that launched him in showbiz. But the public just cried out for more tough guys. This was his great...

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