Caught Again at "Catch Me If You Can"

Well…I had a night this past Thursday.

I mean that in the best possible way ever…as it turns out, this little dog and pony show that I call my blog brought about an amazing opportunity that would not have occurred for me otherwise. In fact, I think I just hit it big time, whatever “it” is.

The folk that are associated with the Broadway production of “Catch Me If You Can” set up a blogger evening, where 50 bloggers (and one guest each) were invited to attend the show and participate in a (relatively) impromptu talk-back/Q&A. Wouldn’t you know it? NRNW was invited and was represented by myself and BFF Courtney.

May I say, as a PR practitioner, blogger outreach and events should be a staple now in any media/communications plan. If your campaign fails to consider the little guy or gal who writes out of passion and creativity (as opposed to a paycheck or deadline), you are missing out on a fantastic word-of-mouth audience and one that is a sample reflection of the audience you are appealing to. As a blogger, we love occasions like this because we are gracious to receive complimentary perks and honored for the acknowledgment.

I am certain you can imagine my excitement for seeing the show again; when I saw it on opening night of previews, I commented positively on a lot of things. After witnessing the show again, I liked it a lot more. It’s funny; knowledgeable musical theater gal pal o’ mine Caroline discussed the show with me last week and we both agreed that it is a solid, entertaining show with some great numbers/moments. Maybe I am still hopped up on the adrenaline, but there were more moments and musical numbers that I liked (or loved a lot more) this go-around.

I tend to think that the show made some slight changes since I last saw it, no matter how subtle, to make the show run smoother. The charming, slick, 60’s variety show it claims to be was in full force tonight and very polished. With the news of its premature closing date (and believe me, I will get to that disappointing matter later), it does not surprise me that the cast and crew are bringing their A-game (which I am sure they already were).

Run-down some numbers of the show with me? Let’s go!

The biggest creative direction of “Catch Me” was the marriage of the out-of-scene “openly addressing the audience” with the 60’s variety performance style. Most of the reviews on "Did He Like It" (the Rotten Tomatoes for Broadway/Off-Broadway) said in so many words that this maneuver was “derivative,” “cliché,” “uninspired” and “just so.” I take these criticisms with a grain of salt because apparently, the critics were expecting to see a literal adaptation of the 2002 film. Did they not know that the creative team behind “Catch Me” was the same one that brought us “Hairspray?” Why change what has worked with them in the past?

“Live in Living Color” established for me that the show would be less about the thrills, twists and turns…and more about the entertainment value, comedy and pleasing the crowd. I am sure the show would have been burned if it was too far in line with the film, like approaching knockoff territory. Going in this direction, to me, was a great, if a little conservative, choice; this adaptation reinterprets the source material instead of doing a close-knit re-telling.

Above all, can you watch this number without being entertained? Aaron Tveit, as Frank, defines the term “triple threat” and done good here; this number is only better within the context of the show as some proactive dialogue is injected throughout.

NRNW 1, Critics 1. While I applaud the variety show direction, they do hit some lulls along the way. “Jet Set” (and “Doctor’s Orders” in the second act), are competently performed, but pointless from all perspectives. Besides, they have the fun, glamorous, over-the-top performances locked up with some other more relevant numbers, including the aforementioned “Live in Living Color.”

It is always a thrill to see an actor perform their character’s signature number after winning the Tony award for his/her performance. This number drew the largest applause from the audience, and rightly so. It is my second favorite number of the show; Norbert Leo Butz, as Carl Hanratty, gives it his all and then some by nailing all the body affectations and vocal projections.

I may have made some remarks about him winning the Lead Actor Tony as opposed to the Supporting Actor Tony (amongst other accolades for this role), but whatever he is “listed” as, his performance is masterful and he deserves every one.

My last criticism of the show (I promise) is that the show’s heavy lifting is done mostly by its two leads: Tveit’s Frank and Butz’s Carl. The supporting cast puts out numbers that are either throwaways or just not at the level as Frank and Carl’s solos and duets (Tveit and Butz have stunning chemistry, just ask anyone who saw the show).

This number sticks out to me because (1) the staging is fun and light-hearted and (2) it serves a purpose from a character and storytelling standpoint. Let me point out that the “Catch Me” score was Tony-nominated for orchestrations and sound design, and I think they deserve some more credit. As this number indicates, this score is consistent with the 60’s era, yet a lot of range is demonstrated with the different musical numbers.

C’mon, that is adorable and witty.

For a throwaway, I find myself liking this one a little bit. Oh sure; the setup of this number is a little “Uh oh; we have a diva voice that we have not used yet. Give her any old number before the show ends.” But I will defend this number and that is in large part due to Kerry Butler, who does has a unique voice and is good, if underwritten, in the role of Brenda Strong.

I do not mean to turn my write-up into something out of the FuckYeahAaronTveit Tumblr page (although I say that like it is a bad thing; it is not)…but here it is.

Of all the criticisms I have read of the show, the one I vehemently disagree with is that Tveit is “one-note”, “un-genuine,” “has little personality” or “lacking charisma.” What the hell? Did some critics go spontaneously deaf and blind when Tveit took the stage? Were they all hitting the pipe too hard? Is is menopause?

I know it is hard, but don't
stare at my awesomeness.
Both times I saw the show, everyone I have spoken to at the theater (and trusted theater sources whom I know personally) raved about Tveit’s performance and singing voice. In fact, the general consensus, no matter how fantastic Norbert Leo Butz is, is that Tveit is the show.

I attest that he is a formidable lead actor and he should have been nominated for a Tony here alongside Butz. “Goodbye” is my counter argument to all the Tveit naysayers; he brings the house down with style and flair with this Broadway ballad. It is my favorite number of the show and one of my all-time favorite numbers in musical theater.

Also, BFF Courtney was probably impregnated by Tveit’s looks and the sound of his voice, as were all other ovary-bearing females in the audience.

After the show was over, the impromptu talkback/Q&A happened where myself, Courtney and some others who elected to stay jettisoned to the front of the theater. We did not know what to expect and after a few minutes, Tveit of all people stepped back on to stage.

He did not know what was going on, but after he was informed that we were “elite theater bloggers” (not my words; that was how we were introduced…which by the way, YAY!), he thanked us for coming to the show and for being a good audience. Also of note; he had his sharpie in his hand and it looks like he was ready to go entertain the stage door folks. My impression from meeting him on opening night and this little exchange is that he is a really nice, classy guy. If you want to meet him, you have a chance this upcoming Thursday.

Nick Wyman, who stars as Roger Strong, came out and spoke with us and was joined by Rachel de Benedet, who played Paula Abagnale. Wyman leads an interesting life I imagine; he serves as the president of the Actor’s Equity amidst working as a performer. I did not come prepared with any questions, but the ones almost leaping out of my mouth were of controversial matters i.e Actor’s Equity and the stagehand strike of 2007 and his reactions/responses to ”Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark.”

Wait, we are closing? They are breaking the
rules, aarghh!!!
Instead, I asked him something a little more relevant to the show at hand and something I needed to have resolved: what is the situation like with “Catch Me” closing prematurely?

Yes, less then two weeks ago, the press release went out that “Catch Me If You Can,” despite four Tony nominations and a win for Lead Actor, will be closing on September 4. This came as quite a shock to me because the show has had a lot of publicity before debuting on Broadway and an elaborate (and well-done) communications campaign to build awareness for the show throughout its run. Above all, looking at the box office grosses week-to-week, there was nothing tipping my radar off in my head that it would close. Even my beloved “American Idiot,” which was also a great show that had a masterful advertising/marketing/PR plan, the box office sales were so low (less when Billie Joe Armstrong was cast), all they could do is close.

Sure, the reviews were mostly mixed to negative (and I do not underestimate that impact when deciding on a show’s run), but out of all the shows on Broadway this season, “Catch Me If You Can” was one of the most well-known  and “crowd-pleaser esque” shows other then “The Book of Mormon” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

I bet if we took our sheets off, we would sell out
each night.
Wyman confirmed everything and explained the process to us all. Namely, that post-Tonys season, there was a drop-off in sales and while it was not substantial, it was damaging enough given the business model. According to him, August/September are tough months for theater and the advanced sales reflected a poor outlook for the show. It did come across as a shock to everyone involved; fortunately though, morale is still high as everyone has relaxed into his or her roles and they are enjoying the time they have left.

Wyman also admitted he would like to play Sweeney Todd/Benjamin Barker in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” That admission made me like him a lot more, as that is one of my favorite musicals and characters.

Some other fun facts…during one performance, Norbert Leo Butz’s gun once slipped out of his hand and flew into the audience. Another crazy, yet frequent occurrence; most of the cast, as Kerry Butler said in this interview which de Benedet confirmed, everyone gets their feet caught on the elevator and stage-moving tracks, causing many stumbles and shoes to come off mid-performance. Good to know!

Thus ended another great evening out at the theater. Thank you to all the wonderful people for putting together this event (and honoring it despite the closing announcement) and it was a pleasure meeting some of the fellow bloggers. Courtney and I had a swell time together, as we always do.

**Winks** **Smiles**
“Catch Me If You Can” is not flawless by any means, nor did I ever say it was. However, it is an entertaining show with a lot of praiseworthy moments and numbers; in fact, it should have been the go-to show for anyone looking for a fun evening in Times Square. I can understand why “Baby, It’s You!” closed (namely, it sucked), but “Catch Me” is miles better in quality and should have been open for at least a year before closing.

Fortunately, tickets are still on sale until September 4th (and they have a student rush program; $27 on the day of when the box office opens) or if you cannot make it over to the Neil Simon theater, a nationwide tour will launch in Fall 2012.

Take it away Aaron!

Every one of my blog entries should end with a kickass Broadway ballad suggesting a finishing/closing of some sort. Any objections? Didn’t think so.

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