Catch Me If You Can; A New and True Broadway Musical
I was lucky enough to recently attend a performance of Broadway’s newest musical Catch Me If You Can. The new musical, based off of a movie of the same name which just happens to be based off of a true life story, is nothing short of the word exceptional. From beginning to end, Catch Me If You Can not only brings back to life the feeling of a true Broadway musical but is absolutely astonishing in every single aspect.
Brought to you by the creator of Broadway’s Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can is a musical based off of the movie of the same name which just happens to be based off of a true life story. Frank Abagnale Jr.at only the age of 16 began one of the greatest scams and chases in the world history. Acting in different roles, forging checks and over time gaining millions of dollars in the 1960’s; Frank Abagnale Jr has not only become known since then for his crimes committed but for what he has done for his country to this day. Due to his expertise skills, he eventually became a consultant for the FBI helping figure out fakes just like he once was. He also runs Abagnale & Associates which ironically enough is a financial fraud consultancy company.
Catch Me If You Can had its first reading ever back in 2005 and not too long after in 2007 began workshops. Big names included in the first readings and workshops of the production included Nathan Lane, Tom Wopat (Currently in Production), Matthew Morrison and Christian Borle. It opened in its regional debut at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in the Summer of 2009 where it ran for less then a month as a limited engagement. Most if not all of the reviews of the debut were positive about the production.
Creating everything musical for our show, we have the famous duo of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. You most likely remember these two from their Broadway extravaganza Hairspray! (Which ironically enough also played the Neil Simon Theatre) For the show, music is by Shaiman with lyrics by both Shaiman and Wittman. The music for the show is simply fantastic. From the opening number “Live in Living Color” to the 11 oh clock number “Goodbye”; Shaiman and Wittman not only capture the true musicical feeling of the show but also manage to exceptionally tell the story of a long boys journey through various songs. Very reminiscent of their other music, jazz and blue’s harmonies exist through the entire show yet they still find a way in every single number to just make you go “Wow” at the music being performing in front of you. They only seem to deliver a show where every single number is a show stopping number.
Broadway legend Terrance McNally pens the book for the new production. McNally exceptionally, nothing new to him, helps create a fun and daring adventure story while still finding every emotional moment along the way. He also found great moments to be very funny without screaming “Hey I’m funny!” as many new musicals do these days. McNally’s book also continues to surprise you as you get towards the end of the show and you find yourself still learning things about every character. The only complaint book wise from me would be to request maybe a little more story behind the character of Brenda before we reach her act 2 song “Fly, Fly Away”. I found myself wanting more of the story and more of her invested in this all before she reached that point. The choice of Terrance McNally to pen this book was not only a smart choice for the production but a key one. Many musicals, especially new ones, may exceed extremely well in music and have a book that is dreadful. Catch Me If You Can is one of few musicals that is able to succeed in both and that is something that is worth noting.
Aaron Tveit, who stars as Frank Abagnale Jr in the production, is incredible from beginning to end showing that while he might be only 27 years old, he is a force to be reckoned with and is definitely Broadway’s newest leading man. I was actually surprised to find the doors of The Neil Simon Theatre still attached to the building after the show considering the amount of charisma Tveit has that could easily knock them off. Tveit easily allows you to believe in the young, naive character Abagnale Jr is and actually breaks your heart at points consistently making you realize at various points “He’s just a kid”. His voice isn’t only smooth but seducing as he sings such songs as “Seven Wonders”. And he can really show off his vocals in the 11 oh clock number of the show “Goodbye” which I have to admit, brought a tear to my eye. Not only concluding the actual show the audience was sitting in but concluding the show of his life, Tveit captures you from Moment A and then takes you on an incredible journey. One of which was an honor it was to experience with him at the helm.
Norbert Leo Butz, who plays detective Carl Hanratty, is not only a joy to watch but ridiculously hilarious the entire production. Chasing and racing all over to find Abagnale Jr in his schemes, Butz tirelessly works and creates the illusion through confusion of a detective working the hardest he ever has in his lifetime. Butz takes the stage and shines at various points even calling it “his show” at times as he sings and dances to songs that not only further the story but are hilarious to watch. “The Man inside the Clues”, which is Butz’s act 1 major song, brings to light the life of a detective with the entire ensemble joining in for a stunning number both musically and visually. Butz is funny in the sense where he not only delivers hilarious lines but seems to be playing along with the giant scam with such crazy things happening as him corning Abagnale Jr in a bathroom and then being fooled into believing he is a secret service officer which is how he escapes from Hanratty’s presence. With his team of detectives, which are just about as ridiculous as he is, Butz not only brings to life the true detective on a wild goose chase but emphasizes that life is filled with more surprises then it may seem.
Also worth mentioning are Kerry Butler in the role of Brenda Strong; the woman who falls madly in love with Frank. Working as a hospital nurse in Georgia, she falls in love with him and eventually returns home, from which she ran away from, with Frank to present him to the family. Of course, Frank gets into more trouble there and eventually must flee yet again but not before letting Brenda know that he loves her. She performs “Fly, Fly Away” after he departs which was moving but left me asking for more of a story about the two before the song. Also, Tom Wopat as Frank Abagnale Sr shines as he is really the one that begins all the trouble teaching Abagnale Jr the way of life by gifting him with a checkbook. Wopat easily takes on the role of a father and strikes pain into the audience as his character’s slow but gradual fall takes place through out the show. “Butter Outta Cream”, based off of a story they tell through out the show, is performed by Frank Sr and Frank Jr and is fantastic to watch as the father and son truly radiate the wanting to succeed in life no matter how you decide to do that.
Jack O’Brien who is director of the new $13 million dollar musical should be applauded for not only directing Broadway’s newest masterpiece but for being able to direct a piece that grabs its audience from the very first moment and has them by the palm of its hand until the last note. Catch Me If You Can will not only be noted by the critics as a fantastic production but as a true Broadway production built up from the heart and passion of theatre at its finest. A shout out as well to associate director Matt Lenz who worked on the production very closely as well with Jack O’Brien. Matt also happens to be a Wagner College Theatre Alum!
Technically wise, the show scores in every single category. Dave Rockwell (Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) designs the set which helps bring to life the show within in a show created by Abagnale Jr and features the orchestra on stage. Staircases and a bridge along the back wall are effectively used to move characters around and give the company numbers a true Broadway feeling with people on all levels. Set pieces appear in and out with the use of trap doors and barely any movie screens or projections are used which delivers a major bonus! (Something difficult to find these days at new Broadway shows) Kenneth Poser (Hairspray, The Merchant of Venice, Wicked) designs the lights and creates multiple rainbows using colors you didn’t even know existed through out the show. His lights are not only an illusion to watch but something that makes you smile the entire production as he uses the lights to create different locations in the same space over and over again. William Ivey Long (Hairspray, Young Frankenstein, The Producers) costume designs the production which only helps push along the feeling of a true Broadway show with lots of costume changes and costumes only getting better as the show goes on. Long also effectively costumes the show within a show taking place and then the story itself. The beauty of the costumes color, shape and how they are used in the production help create a perfect execution. PS– Notice the Hairspray factor in the designers bio’s?
Catch Me If You Can is a perfect example of how a show can be executed when proper attention and enough time is given to it. Like I also mentioned earlier, the clear passion put into this piece ranging from performance to technical aspects place this show at the top of any Broadway list for one of the current best productions out there. This is absolutely a perfect musical is every single aspect. It is only fitting that a new decade on Broadway begin with a show like this. I would highly suggest anyone who gets the chance or is looking for a show to see purchase a ticket to this show. It will be worth every single dollar. Catch Me If You Can will officially open on Broadway at The Neil Simon Theatre on April 10th. For more information, check our Catch Me If You Can’s Official Broadway Website. Also; Thanks to Playbill.com for all the photos used in this article!