Every couple of years an extremely happy and upbeat musical dances it’s way onto Broadway. Hairspray and Memphis come to mind most recently. Catch Me If You Can is the most recent and has all the makings of Hairspray – literally, the same creative team is behind is and it is just as fun. I was excited to catch one of the last previews (which was also a press performance so it was frozen) because it was a stronger guarantee that Aaron Tveit (as Frank Abignale) and Norbert Leo Butz (as Carl Hanratty) would be present. I recently watched the movie of the same title and I loved the story but I’d heard mixed things about the musical so I went in nervously.
I hated the way the fourth way came crashing down the audiences head from the very beginning. Tveit should have been “putting on a show” for Butz, not for the entire audience. The orchestra is onstage the entire time and Tveit acknowledges them periodically and it was just cheesy. There were so many references made to putting on a Broadway musical, and all I could think of was, “Yes, I know what I bought a ticket for this morning. Stop telling me I’m at a show.”
Catch Me… is filled with flashy dance numbers and show stoppers, but the best show-stopper comes in the middle of Act 1 with the song “Don’t Break the Rules.” Norbert Leo Butz dances in a way that I didn’t think he was capable of while being a vocally-flawless musical comedy genius. There was at least a minute of applause after the number concluded and the audience was so enthused that I swore they were about to jump to their feet. I couldn’t believe this was the same actor I had watched play the jaded “Roger” in Rent eleven years ago.
Kerry Butler performs the Eleven O’Clock number with “Fly, Fly Away” and although she sounds amazing, overall she is incredibly miscast was Frank’s love interest, Brenda. Tom Wopat (Abignale Sr.) and Rachel de Benedet (Mrs. Abingnale) are both entertaining and endearing. Aaron Tveit, as Abignale, is vocally impressive and almost has enough charisma to pull off the turn that DiCaprio took as Abignale years ago in the movie, but he’s just slightly off. I enjoyed his performance, but certain moments weren’t one hundred percent believable.
Catch Me… is Hairspray with a better (true) story set to a different genre of music. You’ll see the same brightly colored sets (David Rockwell), great choreography (Jerry Mitchell), aesthetically-pleasing lighting (Kenneth Posner), as well as an ensemble that is working their asses off. You may have seen all the tricks that are turned in Catch Me.. before, but at least you won’t be bored while watching them again.