Broadway Review Roundup: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN - All the Reviews!
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN opened on Broadway Sunday, April 10, 2011 at the Neil Simon Theatre. This new musical, created by a team of Tony winners, features a book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, choreography by Jerry Mitchell and is directed by Jack O'Brien. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is based on the book and hit 2002 DreamWorks film of the same name directed by Stephen Spielberg with screenplay by Jeff Nathanson and book by Frank Abagnale, Jr.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN stars Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz as Agent Carl Hanratty, Aaron Tveit as Frank Abagnale, Jr., Tony Award nominee Tom Wopat as Frank Abagnale, Sr., and Tony Award nominee Kerry Butler as Brenda Strong. The cast also features Rachel de Benedet as Paula Abagnale, Linda Hart as Carol Strong, Nick Wyman as Roger Strong, Joe Cassidy, Timothy McCuen Piggee, Brandon Wardell, Sara Andreas, Alex Ellis, Will Erat, Jennifer Frankel, Lisa Gajda, Bob Gaynor, Kearran Giovanni, Nick Kenkel, Grasan Kingsberry, Michael X. Martin, Aleks Pevec, Kristin Piro, Rachelle Rak, Joe Aaron Reid, Angie Schworer, Sabrina Sloan, Sarrah Strimel, Charlie Sutton, Katie Webber and Candice Marie Woods.
So the did show 'take off' with the critics? Let's find out...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: The script also draws blunt parallel lines between Frank, the pursued, and Carl, the pursuer, a work-obsessed loner. They turn out to have a lot more in common than you might suspect (except that you do, from the beginning), and they are each dutifully given songs to explain how and why. The flashy musical numbers definitely emerge from the plot, just as they are supposed to do in your basic organic musical, but they sometimes have the chalky flavor of audio-visual aids. The notion of Frank as a little boy lost limits the performance of Mr. Tveit, who was terrific as the mother-haunting son in "Next to Normal." He has intense presence, for sure, and a bright, blasting voice (though it belongs more to the age of "American Idol" than "American Bandstand"). But his performance is ultimately one-note, all shine and no shadows.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: One feat that Abagnale did not attempt was writing and starring in a stage musical about his youthful adventures. And now we know why. Not that Catch Me If You Can (* * ½ out of four), the new Broadway show based on the aforementioned film and autobiography of the same name, is a dud. Boasting a score by the famously witty team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and a book by Terrence McNally, Catch Me is too ambitious and stylish in its efforts to entertain and move us to induce boredom. The main problem with this production, which opened Sunday at the Neil Simon Theatre, is that only one of the two leading men is consistently compelling. And it's not the one playing Abagnale (Aaron Tveit).
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: "Catch Me If You Can" makes Abagnale a sympathetic figure guilty mainly of charming everybody. Tveit is handsome and sings well, but overuses his Colgate smile and lacks the pizazz necessary to sell the snake oil. This Frank is a junior, all right: many personas but little personality. Butz, on the other hand, has charisma to spare -- which is saying something, since he puts the "ratty" back in Hanratty. His body hunched at an angle, a greasy-looking hat perched on his head, he creates a fully rounded character, and displays unfailing musical-comedy flair.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: The show has wonderful moments, but issues abound. McNally's overstuffed story jockeys unsteadily between hijinks and serious drama. With Frank's story, the FBI agent's story and Frank's girlfriend's family's story, it's just too much. Shaiman and Wittman's score shows polish and style. "Butter Out of Cream" smoothly states Frank's life motto, while "Don't Be a Stranger" is a moody backdrop for a glamorous dance. But "(Our) Family Tree" and "Doctor's Orders" could've been cut and never missed.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: And yet there's something here that just isn't connecting, that smacks a bit of a color-by-numbers musical. A large reason may be the role of the hero, who is, after all, a cipher - a faker, a fraud, a man who is whatever we assume him to be. Beneath the pilot's uniform or doctor's white coat, there's little but a smile and a wink. "Blink your eyes and I'll be gone," he sings in one song. And he's right: He leaves nothing that resonates behind. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film, this time the role of Frank Abagnale Jr. has been handed over to Aaron Tveit. As pretty as a Ken doll and blessed with a wonderful voice, Tveit nevertheless struggles to convey genuineness.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: The show itself? An odd duck. The songs are by the "Hairspray" duo of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who are very adept at writing and arranging pop songs that fly by effortlessly without leaving much of an impression. They're played by a sensational onstage swing band.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: The musical never finds a way to effectively deliver what was the core of the movie: how the con man, based on the real-life scam artist Frank Abagnale Jr., grew and prospered as a law-breaker, how he learned the ins and outs of forging and passing bad checks, while passing himself off as an airline pilot, doctor and lawyer.
Scott Brown, New York Magazine: Butz is, predictably, the first to bring down the house, pushing an otherwise undistinguished patter-gospel number ("Don't Break the Rules") to impressively incensed heights. By the time the orchestra goes silent and things get dark for swingin' Frank, their relationship feels a lot more earned than I'd ever expected. Maybe I got conned. If so, I didn't mind.
Steven Suskin, Variety: Strongest contribution is from the music department, with a big band sound coming from alive-and-onstage band. Conductor John McDaniel presides from a perch in the stage right corner, bobbing along to swinging orchestrations by Shaiman and Larry Blank. That musical sound and the perfs from Butz and Tveit (with assists from the briefly seen Butler and Hart) offer considerable entertainment value. Sadly, though, this "Catch" of the day is not especially compelling.
David Rooney, Reuters/The Hollywood Reporter:There's nonetheless much to savor in a production polished to a high sheen. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman again prove themselves an ace songwriting team. Their score evokes cocktail lounges, glitzy floorshows, Rat Pack suaveness, mellow jazz and energized go-go, all wrapped up in Shaiman and Larry Blank's silky-smooth ‘60s-styled orchestrations. And Mitchell's choreography puts a vigorous period-appropriate spin on every number. As Hanratty, Butz (a Tony winner for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) does nuanced work balancing the jaded, paunchy slob with the wisecracking professional, driven in his quest to catch Frank yet plagued by the melancholy awareness that his job is his life. The boyishly handsome Tveit, who turned heads in Next to Normal, graduates to a lead role with sparkling self-assurance, strong pipes and natural charm. He makes it easy to like Frank, even if the show makes it hard to love him.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Jerry Mitchell's choreography is also a bit of a grab-bag - a little kick-line here, a little Fosse there - though it's consistently both energetic and spirited. In fact, the entire cast (which also includes Tom Wopat as Frank Abagnale Sr.) seems to be working very hard to put over the material. Under the direction of Jack O'Brien, though, Catch Me If You Can moves mostly in fits and starts. The first act ends abruptly, without a big production number, and throwaway songs like '(Our) Family Tree' with Brenda and her parents tend to stop the show in its tracks. In the end, you have a rooting interest in both Frank and his cohorts on stage. You want them to get away with just about anything. But the creators of Catch Me If You Can have rigged the game against them. What should have been a fun lark of a story seems almost stodgy, like your grandmother's idea of a good time. B-
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: Given the way that style, racy and uninhibited though it may be, pervades so much of O'Brien's production, it makes it much harder to buy in emotionally to the themes that the musical brings up more successfully in Act 2. Frankly, the show gets caught between worlds. It doesn't want to fully embrace the caustic "Chicago"-style edge -- aside from Mitchell's choreographic pastiche, Shaiman's varied score has a typically romantic heart, and the lead actor, Tveit, is more rooted in sweetness and charm than edge. The show also has a powerful and very traditional 11 o'clock number for Kerry Butler, who plays Frank's eventual love, nurse Brenda Strong. But Butler's vocal emotions, rich and strong as they surely feel in this terrific Shaiman melody, "Fly, Fly Away," seem as curiously out of place as her uncertain performance, mostly because we never see the two youngsters actually falling in love.
Matt Windman, AM New York: But in spite of so much promise, "Catch Me If You Can" is so disappointing that it will leave you wishing you could travel back in time and watch "Hairspray" again.
Jonathan Mandell, The Faster Times: Yet for all its many charms, "Catch Me If You Can" is not the thorough thrill that one might have hoped. The creators truncate the story as presented in the film. They keep probably the most memorable image in the film - DiCaprio escaping detection at the airport surrounded by beautiful women in Pan Am stewardess outfits - but make it part of a production number without the context or the suspense...the very things that held our interest in the film. To fill the more than two hour running time, they jazz up the show for the stage with several numbers that look like slightly raunchier versions of the dances in "The Jackie Gleason Show," the most successful of which is "Doctor's Orders." We even get a Mitch Miller spoof. None of this seems all that connected to the campy style of the team's previous big success, "Hairspray," despite similarity in era and setting. The variety hour content starts feeling static, something less than varied.
Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: Two of Catch Me's best attributes are its handsome chorus and its voices; anybody who's anybody in the cast gets a turn in the spotlight, a few in show-stoppers. Butz' "Don't Break the Rules" is a little number he makes very big, a look into his FBI-man psyche; Kerry Butler, in a great turn as our scammer's love, has another of the best moments in "Fly, Fly Away," and Tviet, 27, a tenor who made his name as the son in Next to Normal, delivers several pieces with unwavering clarion power.
Erik Haagensen: Backstage.com: Under Jack O'Brien's impersonal direction, the talented cast works hard to make an impression. As Frank, Aaron Tveit has stage presence, sings powerfully, and dances with pizzazz, but he's unpersuasive as a teenager and misses the character's vulnerability. The role of Hanratty has been retooled to fit Norbert Leo Butz's wonderfully shlumpy eccentricity, and the actor brings all his formidable musical comedy skills to bear on it, but even the heroic Butz can't transcend the synthetic material. As Frank's downward-spiraling father, Tom Wopat sounds the evening's sole notes of genuine humanity but can't finesse a final exit of extreme bathos. In the too little, too late role of Brenda, a young nurse Frank falls for, Kerry Butler offers her trademark ditziness and is saddled with the painfully pointless "Fly, Fly Away," a misguided attempt at a late-Act 2 showstopper.
Linda Winer, Newsday: News that the guys from "Hairspray" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" were making a musical based on the movie "Catch Me If You Can" raised a couple of intriguing -- also daunting -- questions. How? And why? That is, how could songs, dances and a Broadway stage add to the plot-heavy adventures of a real-life teen con man without losing the odd and breezy travelogue style of Steven Spielberg's...