Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catch Me If You Can

Just when I thought I'd seen the best new musical of the year, along comes another!  Look out theater aficionados, another potential blockbuster has just landed on Broadway.  Terrance McNally's book transforms the already slick, fast-paced silver-screen story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. into an elegant, high-energy Broadway show with beautiful show-girls (and boys) and a fantastic musical score by the creative team of Shaiman and Whitman.

Piloting this juggernaut are the ever adorable and talented duo of Aaron Tveit (Frank Jr.) and Norbert Leo Butz (FBI Agent Hanratty).  Supporting cast and crew includes Kerry Butler (Brenda Strong) as his fiance and Tom Wopat (Frank Sr.) as his father.

This version takes a more personal route of storytelling, cleverly weaving the story of who Frank Abagnale, Jr., one of the largest con-men of our generation, was, what motivated him, and perhaps a hint at why he did it.   The story is told as a flash-back.  The story opens up with Frank being caught and he has the thought that the people around him just might be interested in why he's being shot at and pursued (the preverbal light bulb moment).  The show (within the show) then unfolds as he literally tell the story and introduces the characters from his rather surreal life.

For the entire 2:40 minutes - you'll be dazzled and treated to top notch performances  - most of which include Tveit who is rarely off-stage.  And speaking of the stage - the sets by David Rockwell are incredibly classy - an elegant, big-band feel, the orchestra on stage atop a dual grand staircase which provids for perfect showy entrances and exits.  The production did have an out-of-town try-out in Seattle, but changes are still being made.  Is it perfect yet?  Not quite - but I took a few notes for choreographer Jerry Mitchell and director Jack O'Brien.  I hope they can tighten up the dancers.  The choreography is brilliant but on more than one occasion the tires tended to come off the bus.  The Family Tree number presents physical challenges - one mis-step (as Mr Tveit had at my performance) and it could all fall apart.  Mr. O'Brien needs to cut the drawn out final scene and two numbers - and for God's sake - do an encore of "Don't Break The Rules".  It would bring the audience to its feet right in the middle of Act I.   These few notes aside, for only its 2nd week of previews this show is in terrific shape.

Dare I say - we have a battle Tony battle brewing on Broadway already?  Book vs Catch.  There's plenty to be smiling about leaving the theatre these days.   I just may go back for more of both!