Wednesday, May 4, 2011

theatre review- CATCH ME IF YOU CAN - Broadway May 3

If you're looking for a snazzy, jazzy new musical, look no further than Catch Me If You Can, the new musical based on the autobiographical book and movie of the same name (the hit 2002 movie was directed by Stephen Spielberg and starred Leonardo DiCaprio.)  From the creators of Hairspray, Catch is set in the swinging 60's and the score and theme of the show perfectly evoke the period and style of the 60's variety show. 

If you haven't seen the film or know about the true story this is based on, Catch Me If You Can tells the story of Frank Abignale, Jr., a young man who runs away from home with only his charm, imagination and his check book with fifty blank checks in it.   He wants to be someone else, to live in the glamorous jet set life, so he first starts to forge checks, then turns his ability to deceive others into passing himself off as a pilot for Pan Am.  Things escalate from there, with Frank always on the run from the FBI, and especially the agent out to get him, Carl Hanratty.

The show actually begins with Frank getting caught by Hanratty at an airport.  And when Frank pleads with Hanratty to let the people at the airport know why they are chasing him, to tell them his story, Hanratty agrees and the show becomes Frank's variety show.  A way for Frank to tell us how he got to be
where he is and why he did what he did. 
Aaron Tveit

Aaron Tveit is Frank and Norbert Leo Butz is Hanratty.  They both excel in their roles, have great singing voices and charisma as well as have a great rapport with the audience, and they interact with the audience a lot.  They also have a great relationship with each other, even though one is the cat and the other the mouse. Tveit is given several songs that show off his beautiful voice.  He also finds himself dancing several times with the very limber ensemble, and he moves just as well as the trained dancers do.    Butz is a lovable comic, and he is able to make anything he does comical, including his dancing.  His number in the first act, "Don't Break the Rules" where he finds himself in the middle of the dancing ensemble, brought the house down.  Butz got a Tony nomination yesterday while Tveit did not,  but Tveit is in good company since Daniel Radcliffe didn't get a nom either.

Norbert Leo Butz
Tom Wopat plays Frank's father, and he does a fine job in portraying the father who is somewhat of a crook himself, who always tries to do right by his family, but ultimately ends up alone in whatever bar he can find.  I liked how Wopat aged throughout the evening and how he was more of a broken man each subsequent time we saw him.  He is in great voice as well and gets to croon several songs for us. Kerry Butler is Brenda, the girl Frank falls in love with and she has a beautiful ballad in act two, "Fly Away" that perfectly captures the need to run away from something and to find oneself. 

Kerry Butler
The score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman has several memorable tunes as well as many that are character specific or plot focused.  The catchy "Life in Living Color" and "Goodbye" are still playing in my mind.   Director Jack O'Brien keeps the show moving at a quick pace, though there are a couple of rough patches along the way, but even those moments are only blips along a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the theatre.

The choreography by Jerry Mitchell is fun, inventive, original and very period specific.  I'm surprised he didn't get a Tony nomination for his work, it is that good.  This show has one of the best dancing ensembles currently on Broadway.

The book by Terrence McNally touches upon the important plot elements and turning points in Frank's life.  And while I liked how the relationship between Frank and Carl was dramatized, the ending of what happened to them felt a bit rushed and forced.  But these are just a few quibbles in a fun jazzy show.

Tom Wopat and Butz
Now some critics didn't like the use of a 60's variety show but I thought it was a perfect way for Frank to tell us his story.  Variety shows were huge then as well as into the mid 70's, so anyone at that time would relate to them and would think of them as a perfect way for him to tell his story.  And don't forget that Frank is a con man who likes to put on a show for others, pretending he is something he really isn't, so the idea of him putting on a show for us makes perfect sense to me.

Tveit and the ensemble

Official Show Site

Amazon link for the MP3 download of the Broadway Cast Recording - Catch Me If You Can
Amazon link for the autobiography by Abiganale - Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake

Amazon link for the Spielberg movie on dvd - Catch Me If You Can (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)

Montage of clips from the Broadway show -

Norbert and the cast sing "Don't Break the Rules" on Letterman -

"Live in Living Color" clip -

The opening sequence to the movie- love that John Williams score!

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