Joel Grossman ’74 isn’t a song-and-dance man. He’s not an actor. He doesn’t even design stage sets. Nevertheless, there is a good chance Broadway is in his future.
Grossman is lead producer of Cagney, the Musical, an off-Broadway play focusing on the career of legendary actor—and song-and-dance man—James Cagney. Currently playing at Westside Theater on 43rd Street, the show has received great reviews since opening in April 2016, and on Dec. 31, 2016, the actors became the first off-Broadway cast invited to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
“I’ve always loved the theater, and I’ve been going since I was a kid,” Grossman says.
He got involved with the show after Riki Kane, a longtime business friend, contacted him when she considered producing the show after its original six-week run by the York Theater Company in 2015. She set up a meeting with a group to co-produce the show, but Grossman had other ideas.
“Because of the depth of story in Cagney, we think it has legs for Broadway.”
Joel Grossman ’74, lead producer of Cagney, the Musical
“I said to Riki that I didn’t see this in the cards. The only way to produce this in New York is if we buy the rights,” he says. “She is extremely entrepreneurial. When you invest in a show, you don’t have any say in it. The only way to have a say is if you are lead producer.”
Aiming for Broadway is a long road from Grossman’s professional roots.
He is a certified public accountant who worked for KPMG, Merrill Lynch, Gulf and Western, and Madison Square Garden before founding his own CPA firm. In 1999, he became chief financial officer of a small biotech/life sciences company, and from 2002 to its sale in 2013, he was the CFO and COO of Metrokane, the maker of Rabbit and Houdini wine accessories.
His background was critical as the theater company worked to secure the theater lease, hire an entertainment attorney and accountant, and negotiate contracts with cast members.
Cagney, the Musical has been running at the Westside for almost a year, a rare run in a business where most shows don’t last nearly as long.
“The next decision point is do we get a new Cagney (lead actor Robert Creighton is leaving after the one-year-anniversary) or close the show,” Grossman says. “Because of the depth of story in Cagney, we think it has legs for Broadway.”