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books, blabberings, and a life semi-common
In the second-to-last song of the new musical, Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by Aaron Tveit) bids farewell to the audience and repeats his statements of the show being over. Tveit sings it with gusto and emotional. The only problem is that it’s too little too late and all I wanted to do at that point was close my eyes and take a nap.
The problem with the show isn’t any one thing in particular. There are no memorable numbers (though I do love Seven Wonders though the demo version was much better), there are few actors that manage to brighten up the stage, and it feels like nothing is complete, by which I mean scenes and songs often leave the audience dangling for that little bit more to bring the number to completion.
Tveit has the look of a charmer and a strong voice. Hell, he even has some good dance moves though that’s not surprising considering his stint in Hairspray. Yet, what he brings onto the stage are merely pieces that get lost in the fact that I didn’t feel anything while I watched him. There was no charisma, no emotion; it oddly felt like a young man reading his lines. However, opposite Tveit is Norbert Leo Butz’s Carl Hanratty. The character himself is eccentric and amusing and Butz manages to play him perfectly and full of realism. He is the show-stealer with soaring vocals and acting that ranges from anger to defeat to apathy to stern. With any luck, Tveit will take some lessons from Butz and bring a bit more pizazz into his character.
Other casting choices had me both happy and confused. Tom Wopat is utterly boring when he sings though his defeated stance toward the end of the show is heartbreaking. Linda Hart manages to bring the house down with her one scene and one song-and-dance. Kerry Butler, once more, manages to play Brenda Strong the same way in which she played Sherrie in Rock of Ages, Kira in Xanadu, and Penny in Hairspray – awkwardly young with stilted movements and a need to belt out a song all over the scales. “Fly, Fly Away” is a good song but Butler couldn’t seem to find a simple way to sing it; from growls to high-pitched notes that reminded me of a little girl singing.
Other than the actors themselves, the show is a mix of cheesy and cheeky, annoying and unnecessary. With the backdrop of a 60s variety show, there are women in barely-there clothes who, while gorgeous and fun to look at and with voices that beg for more solos, they don’t really have a purpose to the plot. Unfortunately (or maybe it’s fortunately at this point), their presence is more powerful than some of the numbers and the other characters if only for their sheer number. While they’re flashy and glamorous, the girls are stuck dancing along stairs and small spaces due to the variety show’s large orchestra.
While the creative team once made a hit with Hairspray, it’s doubtful the formula will apply to this latest endeavor. It seems like everything is lacking just a little bit and with the exception of Norbert Leo Butz’s brilliant saving of an otherwise boring show, perhaps a real “Good-bye” will happen sooner rather than later.