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3/14/11

Catch Me...I Fell Back into the 60's


And this time, it was not because of the beautiful cinematography and costuming of Mad Men.


Instead, I withdrew $75 dollars from my Broadway fund (which in my world, has an unlimited budget – let’s be honest) and snatched a ticket to Catch Me If You Can. What’s more? It was on opening night…of previews. *Chorus of Angels*

Yes, I was among the couple hundred of people in the sold out Neil Simon theater getting my 60’s on to a fantastic cat-and-mouse show…and these eyes saw a lot while the mind was trying to process it all.

I had heard about this show about a month or so back. Thank you to BroadwayBox.com, I got a third row, center-orchestra ticket to the opening night of March 7th for 60% off the asking price.

But then tragedy struck…

Well, not tragedy exactly. The opening date was pushed back to the eleventh of March, so my ticket was useless. I got it refunded as per policy…and took the money right to the March 11th performance. I got the center-orchestra seat about eight or nine rows back from my original seat at the same price.
As it turns out, that did not matter. This spectacle could be seen from any seat in the theater; I could not take my eyes off the fun that was happening on stage. Broadwayworld.com, would you mind interjecting to inform the uninitiated?
“Catch Me If You Can” captures the astonishing true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a world-class con artist who passed himself off as a doctor, a lawyer, and a jet pilot-all before the age of 21. With straight-arrow FBI agent Carl Hanratty on Frank's trail, we're off on a jet-setting, cat-and-mouse chase, as a jazzy, swinging-sixties score keeps this adventure in constant motion. In the end, Agent Hanratty learns he and Frank aren't so very different after all, and Frank finds out what happens when love catches up to a man on the run.

I could not have summarized it better myself. What an amazing story, amiright? While I have not read the book, I am a fan of the movie released that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. THAT is a MOVIE…and THIS was a SHOW.
I had so much fun NRNW-monsters. It is clearly a show that prides itself on being entertaining and an assured crowd-pleaser. I do love my American Idiot (and by the way, this show was the perfect remedy to the AI closing blues) and Next to Normal, but fun is hardly what I would describe either of them. This show joins the ranks of Hairspray and Rock of Ages as musicals people want to watch when they want to feel good and laugh.
While we are discussing Hairspray, the creative team behind that show’s revival some six years back also made this show. The similarities between the two are evident; but who cares really? They treated it like the expected thing it was; they weren’t trying to mask the Hairspray-isms and prove how different the two shows are…they took the best elements about Hairspray and tried to improve on them here.

What I recognized early on, which was confirmed by my seat neighbors at the theater, was how loyal the show was to its source. Even moreso, the show took some risks that could have derailed the show entirely…and yet, less some moments in the second act, it all played out extremely well.
For example…the show opened with and sustained a 40’s “let’s put on a show” motif. One word to describe the show was ‘classic’…even though it is set in the 60’s, I did not expect that exactly. Frank Jr. addressed the audience out-of-scene saying that much; the first number, ‘Live in Living Color,” was right out of the Judy Garland playbook with flashy lights, theatrical costuming and dancing and a charismatic lead antagonist protagonist actor. This idea repeated throughout…and I cannot object; I LOVED it.
Things like that - the out-of-scene addressing the audience, the over-the-top numbers - lent itself to the adrenaline rush and whimsy the show calls for. Brilliant choices indeed.
Let me address my second act stance before continuing forward. In my honest opinion, even though I am in the minority, the second act stumbled a bit. Granted, the first act is near-perfect, from storyline to music to execution, so of course, the second act palled in comparison. But the more I think about it, the more I see a lot of minor grievances add up in my head; I know, it hurts.

The one thing I liked without apprehension was the ending. Appropriately fitting, meta-texual, amusing and a great call-back to the film…no complaints there. The second act’s music was still great in some parts, but lacking in others. While I liked how the drama ramped up in lieu of comedy, some parts were absent of the charm that made me fall in love with the show in the first place. Above all, something felt wrong with the dynamic between Frank (Jr.), Brenda and Brenda’s family. I would consider it a token romance, but that is being too harsh; it certainly was not the actor’s faults. I think the entire package simply did not add up to the sum of its parts. A better second act and I would be looking at a contender for all-time favorite musicals.
Okay, now that that band-aid is ripped off…moving on to the score. There is a great through-line making for a cohesive score, but there is a considerable range to avoid repetition and to put its talented cast to great use. There are a lot of numbers that span across a few genres (with-in the obvious ‘musical’ one), which also mixes together a lot of vocal pairings. Anyone who has seen my seen my commentary on Glee knows that I appreciate it when lesser-known characters get a solo or an unusual pairing gets a duet number. At least five different pairs of characters get duets and there are plenty of solos and full-scale ensemble numbers to boot; as Broadway scores go, it is really well-balanced.
The acting…or as I should say, the ACTING. The personal highlight of the show for me, hands down. Aaron Tveit has accrued an wide range of musical theater roles, but Frank Jr. was the role he was born to play. That is saying something because as Gabe in Next to Normal


...and Roger in Rent...

...and and Fiyero in Wicked

He nails it every time. And yet he manages to impress again; Exhibit A…

…that nifty little number. The soundtrack was just picked up for distribution, so there are not a lot of Catch Me If You Can’s songs floating around on YouTube. Tveit's rendition of “Goodbye,” the penultimate song of the show, is a SHOW-STOPPING number and probably my favorite of the entire show. His Tony nomination is guaranteed; a nuanced performance loaded with charm.

Veteran Broadway actor Norbert Leo Butz (left), playing the role of Carl Hanratty, has the Supporting Actor Tony locked up in my book. Premature, I know (especially because this is the only show I have seen), but his performance was the work of a true pro. His character is not as show-ey or fun to watch compared to Frank Jr., but Butz made it both of those things in a subtle manner. He conveyed that "old timey FBI agent who believes in upholding justice" perfectly... and if you ask me, his character arc was more engaging then Tveit’s Frank Jr. Hanratty goes from that tough-as-nails law enforcer to a fatherly figure with compassion and justice obligation without missing a beat; Butz was just that good.
With Tveit and Butz at the wheel, they made the show what it is just with how they played off eachother. They had UH-MAZ-ING chemistry; enough to rival DiCaprio and Hanks, for sure. I got that impression from this convenient YouTube video before seeing the show…

I’ve only watched this a mere 150 times (c’mon, that video is hysterical). I anticipated fun times with these two and they exceeded on that promise.
As for the supporting cast…well, we have Kerry Butler in a good, if under-written, role of Brenda Strong. She does get a diva moment though…

And by diva, I mean DIVA! Loved her; she gone and done a good job. And the supporting cast was certainly competent as well, especially Tom Wopat as Frank Sr (another potential Tony nominee). He duets with Butz on the number “Little Boy, Be a Man”…and that was a treat and one of the highlights of second act.

Oh, the backup dancers? All good; they certainly looked like they were having fun on stage.
Catch Me If You Can is not flawless by any means, but its entertainment and fun factors are so damn high, even the most miniscule flaw is overridden by the joy of watching a classically-inspired musical. And with this talented acting ensemble, there is no reason why the most ardent of theater lovers should miss this show. Expect to hear a lot about this show in the next few months…it may will earn a Tony nomination for Best Musical and it has been receiving some great buzz since opening. For my first premiere and first preview, I had an great time; I’d see the show again...and maybe another time.

As far as the post-show shenanigans…well, they were demure in comparison to the American Idiot insanity I have been apart of, but still relatively crazy. It was awesome to get face-time with Tveit because the estrogen brigade bait cavalry was out for this event, so I thought he would flee from the theater out of panic. I said so much on Twitter (below); I really have no filter sometimes...
Anyways, Aaron did not bail; he stayed and entertained the audience. What a nice guy! And he does have an awesome resume of roles, who wouldn’t want to mimic his successes when they grow up…I would; he has it pretty good.

Kerry Butler and some of the supporting cast also came out, all sweethearts of course. The only one absent post-show was Butz; a shame because he was my favorite in the show and this is the original Fiyero from Wicked we are talking about. So it goes…damn.
Still, what can I say…ya know, other then to go catch Catch Me If You Can while you can.

1 comment:

beadandread said...

Thank you for this! I was lucky enough to see the first preview in Seattle. What an amazing experience to see something so fresh and feel all of that energy pour off the stage. Looks like they dropped "50 Checks" (good song but slowed down the pace) and "Bury Me Next to My Dead" (only song that did not fit the show for me), but I'm sorry if they dropped Leo's first song, had a line like "Here I Come to Save the Day". Can't wait for the cast recording!