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'Catch Me If You Can' stages Broadway brilliance

What is Broadway, if not dancing, singing and lights? Furthermore, what is dancing, singing and lights without superb acting and design? The new Broadway show, Catch Me If You Can, brings the movie of the same name onstage with every component of a great show.

With preview performances beginning March 11, the musical opens April 10 at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York, NY.

Director Jack O’Brien turned the sleek Steven Spielberg movie into an energetic, lighthearted, purely fun musical. The cast, set and music made Catch Me If You Can distinctive, creating a unique play with classic Broadway attributes.

Catch Me If You Can tells the true story of the young, confident conman Frank Abignale, Jr. (Aaron Tveit). When his seemingly close-knit family suffers a divorce, 16-year-old Frank is set in the position to decide whether he will live with his mother or father.

Under great pressure, Frank runs away and becomes a conman, posing as a pilot, doctor and lawyer. As he scams people around the world, he accrues over $1 million and lives a life on the move.

Meanwhile, the persistent and tireless detective Carl Hanratty (Norbert Leo Butz) pursues him on a number of threads. Eventually, Frank falls in love with the innocent Brenda Strong (Kerry Butler), and desires a regular life with her. However, considering his crimes, he is unable to put an end to the chase.

From the first song, “Live in Living Color,” the musical put a smile on my face, and I knew that I would love the entire performance. The song’s title served as a perfect description of Catch Me If You Can, as it was always a spectacular sight.

Knowing that Marc Shaiman wrote the music, it is evident that Catch Me If You Can has similarities in style to Hairspray — another show involving Shaiman. These likenesses made for a very energetic and compelling production.

Tveit led the production with his charisma, pure tenor voice and charm. Whether he sang a big jazz number while dancing, or conveyed a soft song to Brenda, his voice was powerful and captivating.

Tveit’s co-star, Butz, was the big name of the show, having played multiple renowned roles such as Fyero in the original cast of Wicked. As Carl, Butz portrayed the gruff yet lovable detective. Although his character was not flashy, he was definitely a scene-stealer, especially in his fun and catchy song “Don’t Break the Rules” with the company.

In the show, Frank’s love interest, Brenda, barely appears at all in the first act, but is very prominent in Act II. Since I had only heard Butler sing a few notes before her solo song, I was not sure what to expect from her voice. However, her “average girl” character did not restrain her voice. When it came time to sing the big notes, Butler belted out the song with a beautiful sound.

However, I would have liked to hear more solo pieces from her instead of just one. And I am positive that the whole crowd wanted to hear more of her talent.

Though the movie is often serious and gritty, the musical takes a lighthearted, upbeat angle on the story, but still presents deep, touching themes.

The relationships between characters were prevalent, especially between Frank and Carl. Though the two seem to be polar opposites — a confident, young rule-breaker and the determined detective out to get him — Tveit and Butz displayed the characters’ link through loneliness.

To lighten the mood, a group of stunning dancers brightened up the stage. Though some may consider their dancing and skimpy outfits provocative, they brought that classic glamorous atmosphere back to the Broadway stage. While I may have preferred more clothing on them at times, it was always fun to see them in a big chorus line.

I never wanted the final song to conclude, and seriously considered how I might get the cast to perform an encore. When the actors exited the stage after their bows, my only consolation was the hope of buying the show’s soundtrack.

Out of all of the plays and musicals I have seen, Catch Me If You Can is by far the most fun. There were classic Broadway elements all over the place, but in a style unique to the musical. Without any hesitation at all, I would absolutely see this show again, and highly recommend it to anyone who finds the chance.

Catch Me If You Can runs for two hours and 30 minutes, and is currently playing on Broadway. For tickets and showtimes, visit Ticketmaster.

The writers of Catch Me If You Can, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, have created Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to premere in London at the Theatre Royal in the summer of 2013.

For more drama reviews, read the March 10 article, ‘Spamalot’ eclipses ‘Holy Grail’ original.

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