There is a debate currently going on in the Creighton household: Whose award is bigger? Is it Robert’s Astaire Award that he won for his hard-hoofing work as James Cagney in Cagney, the Musical, the show he co-created about the Oscar-winning entertainer? Or is it his wife Whitney’s Webby Award, which she (alongside the digital teams at the American Theatre Wing, the Broadway League and Tony Awards Productions) received for producing last year’s 2015 Tony Awards’ live stream as the associate director of content and community at Serino Coyne? One thing they can’t argue about: This spring has brought their family reasons to celebrate. In addition to winning the Astaire Award for Outstanding Male Dancer, Robert was nominated for Outer Critics and Drama Desk awards, while Whitney produced another successful Tony Awards’ live stream this year for Serino Coyne.
When Robert met Whitney at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2006—Whitney was the marketing manager and Robert was starring in A Wonderful Life—Cagney was just an itch in the Broadway vet’s tap shoes. As their family has grown to include their four-and-a-half-year-old son, RJ, and three-year-old daughter, Samantha, so have Robert’s dreams of bringing Cagney to the stage. The musical debuted at Florida Stage in 2009, and this week Cagney celebrates both its 117th Off-Broadway show at the Westside Theatre (as well as what would be James Cagney’s 117th birthday). Trophy size aside, this couple is the definition of award-winning.
This awards season was crazy for you guys! Robert, you won the Astaire Award for Outstanding Male Dancer and you were nominated for a Drama Desk and an Outer Critics. Whitney, you won a Webby Award for your work with Serino Coyne last year on the Tony Awards’ live cast and you produced another show this year.
Whitney Creighton: Ironically, the night we received that Webby Award was the same night Bobby had the Astaire Awards. We were both winning awards, but we couldn’t come to each other’s [ceremonies] to celebrate each other.
Robert Creighton: It was still pretty fun, though. We both arrived home and had our awards. My award is bigger than hers. It’s an actual trophy.
WC: [The Webby] is not just a pin. We had to order our awards, and they are sent to us.
RC: The fun part was when we both arrived home and we literally could not stop laughing. It was a very fun night.
You have such separate careers, but they are both in the industry. Do they overlap at all?
WC: I can only describe many of the experiences in our life as synergistic, but it’s church and state as far as I’m concerned. Although sometimes I have difficulty releasing control on that.
RC: Because [Cagney] is my baby, it’s her baby too. She knows so much about the best way to do things, so if something isn’t going that way it’s hard for her to just stand by and let it play out. It can be quite difficult, but it’s also been very helpful. I’ve communicated things that have needed to be communicated [to our team] because Whitney picked up on them, and it’s helped the show. She’s an unpaid consultant.
Whitney, do you feel like by being married to an actor and a creator of a show helps you at your job, because you really understand a show from the inside out?
WC: One hundred-and-ten percent. Understanding the process, and the sensitivities, and what it takes to birth a production from a creative standpoint helps me to be able to pull out the best material and work with artists in the best ways possible to make great digital content. Understanding the DNA of how an actor and a creator works absolutely helps us get a better product at the end of the day. It’s also interesting because our relationship helps each of us. If I’m working with an actor or a director who knows me from their relationship with Bobby, there’s a whole different level of trust. I’m not going in cold, and vice versa. If Bobby’s talking to somebody who has been one of my clients, or they’ve worked on a show that I’ve worked on in the past it definitely helps break the ice.
Is it hard to spend time together? Even though Whitney’s in the theatre industry she still has regular business hours, and I know she worked all hours before the Tony Awards.
RC: Yes, you caught us at a moment where we’re really craving more time together. Both of our schedules have been so demanding, and the nature of my show is such that it’s not just the hours I’m [at the theatre], but it’s the way I have to live my life to be able to do the role—which is challenging on everybody. [This month] my schedule changes to Thursday matinees with Thursday nights [off] and we’ve already set that up as date night.
What is an ideal date night for the Creightons?
RC: Well, we love the theatre, that’s why we’re in it, so we’re already getting tickets lined up for Thursday nights to go see the things we want to see. We’re very excited about it. And [the shows] usually come with a trip backstage to see friends, so that’s even better.
Whitney, do you ever feel like it’s James Cagney that comes home instead of Robert?
WC: Never. When he’s off stage he’s off stage. When he’s onstage, he’s onstage. It’s part of his skill, and it’s why he’s such a great actor. Then he turns it on for our kids, which is hysterical to watch and they love it.
Whitney, are you as big of a fan of James Cagney as Robert is?
WC: I have always been a fan of Cagney’s, but of course being married to an aficionado has clearly raised my level of awareness. His life was pretty phenomenal, but more interestingly and more personally, I’ve learned that the way Cagney led his life very much mirrors the way Bobby leads his. Cagney was always wanting to have everybody be on the same level and take care of everyone in his life. When I watch the show I see a lot of the way that Cagney was, in the way Bobby naturally leads his life, which is a lot of fun for me to see.
Have your kids started tap dancing yet? I’m sure it’s only a matter of time!
WC: They both have tap shoes. RJ absolutely loves tapping. Every time he sees the commercial for Cagney he goes crazy and does all of Daddy’s moves. He jumps in the air and does the spin. It’s adorable.