Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catch Me if You can (Musical Review)

Last but not least was the musical based on a true story about Frank Abignale, Jr. If you watched the 2002 movie adaptation, staring Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hanks (which I hope to watch and review soon!), you know I am talking about none other than: Catch Me If You Can!

The theatre which this musical adaptation was shown was the Neil Simon Theatre. This was a theatre I passed a few times on my explorations of the city. In fact, the first day I was in the “Big Apple”, I ate dinner with my parents (who were also with me on the trip) at a good restaurant right across from Neil Simon, so I knew exactly where it was located. The inside of the theatre had an older feel to it, which seemed appropriate given the time period of the musical. The style of the architecture seemed to have either Roman or Greek (not sure which), though that doesn’t seem important.

Just like the three performances before this one, our seats were wonderful! I can say that my seat (row F seat 14) was really close to the stage as tt was in the sixth row. No complaints what-so-ever! 

Photo Caption: this was the second best curtain. it looks like clouds...was some sort of projection...

Frank Abagnale Jr. (played here by Aaron Tveit) was a con man. Under the guise of a Pan Am pilot, supervising resident doctor and a lawyer, he cashed over $2.5 million in forged checks. I point out that he had no flying, medical, or law experience and did not even finish high school. On his adventures around the world, he was chased by several world agencies including the FBI and did I mention he was under 21?
Along the way, he romances tones of stewardess, nurses, and so many other women. One woman (played Kerry Butler), of course, would be his down fall. However, I won’t say anything more as that would roughen all the fun! 

Needless to say, this is a very intense funny musical. Think of it like a real life version of Oceans 11, except this time there was more than one con and more than one focus of the con. I am really surprised all that Abigdale did while being in his teenage years and without going through high school.

Aaron Tveit (aka Frank Abagnale Jr.) was great. He had this wonderful voice and was charming. At several points in the musical, he broke the fourth wall and became the narrator of the show. This was very entertaining! I think Mr. Tveit will go far…

The FBI agent who was chasing Frank, Carl Hanratty, was portrayed that night by Nick Kenkel. This was actually his first time playing this part, because he was standing in for Norbert Leo Butz (who had been in the role for the tonys and also most of the other productions). Mr. Kenkel was previously just one of the agents, but that night he had his big break. For his first time as that role, he did a really good job! Very cool!

The whole cast was actually really good and should be congratulated for their excellence.

Cultural References
Being a musical based on a real life event (if changed slightly), there are references to real life culture icons. For example, there are many references to the DC comic character known as the Flash. In a scene where Frank is shown as being around sixteen or so, he joyfully reads Flash #1, which was a real comic published in 1959, which is 4 years before the more recent scenes in the musical takes place (which makes sense as these are within a childhood flashback). Later on, he even uses the alias of Barry Allen, who is the alter ego of the Flash.

This is the comic I was talking about


One interesting thing about this musical was the set.  We’ve seen four different sets on our trip, but this was unique in a few ways. Sure, it wasn’t dark and spooky like Addams Family, or comic book-esque like Spiderman, or even flashy like How to Succeed, but it was colorful. Its vibrant colors gave the show sort of an air of fantasy and magic to the story, while continuing to be based on reality. Even the costumes were flashy and over the top, truly “taking [us] for a spin” (to barrow from the first song).

Another fascinating thing about this production was where the orquestra was located. In the other performances we’ve seen reviewed here, the orcastra was in the orquestra pit right in front of the stage. This performance’s orcastra, however, was different in that it was on the stage it self. The part I could see reminded me of a normal band you see in the movies at one of those older night clubs. They were on this pink flout-like stand. I know that doesn’t really describe what it was, but its really hard to explain. On one end was the Orquesta and the other, there were tables for some of the actors could sit in the background. So, basically, the orquestra was a backdrop, the music maker and part of the action at some points.

Another interesting thing which made this different was what happened afterward. After the performance, there was a question and answer session with Aaron Tveit. Very insightful. He talked about past works and how the current work is doing. Basically, there was the usual questions you would expect to hear at this sort of thing (even the will you marry me question, which I want to say I did not ask). So, here goes the Ponsonby Britt Report’s first exclusive thanks to my notes:

 What is this role like?
  • tiring but worth it
How did you prepare for this role?
  • read book, talked with real Frank W. Abagnale Jr.
Will you marry me?
  • I’m pretty busy right now
How is acting in a professional  way like?
  • loves what he does
  • never gets old, never gets stale
  • “they want to see you agiant, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke” (referring to casting directors)
  • long hours
After that, we went outside and got that same actor to sign my play bill. Also, we got the assistant director to sign. He was so thrilled when we asked after we had chatted for a little bit about the actors work and such. Made his day! Or rather night!

Photo caption: Aaron is signing and the assistant Director is behind him
Permanent Marker is Aaron, Pen is Assist. Director
This was a very fun musical. It was sort of like a modern version of Music Man plus a little more reality to it.  This musical really was a great way to end my trip to broadway and I’m glad I went and saw it! It was a great show and it really made my day when I saw it! I’m not sure what one is my favorite. They have all been great and I look forward to memorized songs and singing these songs.

Once again, I don’t own Catch Me If You Can, and at the moment I don’t know who does…I guess Frank Abignale…but I’m not sure.

 The following was from the Tony Award proformence which has two great songs:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Brotherhood of Man (Musical Review)

 The third musical I want to mention is one which might not be as familiar to most people as Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark is, but the main actor has been thrilling movie goers since 2001 when the first Harry Potter movie was released. As you might have already figured out, the actor I am talking about is Daniel Radcliffe and the musical I am talking about is How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying!

To fit with such a marvelous musical, the theatre was the lovely Al Hirschfeld Theatre. It was an older theatre which seemed to fit the time period of the musical. These New York musicals were good about that. None of the locations didn’t fit their accompanying musical. This theatre had lovely wood paneling which especially fit How to Succeed.

Our seats were wonderful, yet again. We had three balcony seats right in the front in row A. My own seat, lucky number 13a, was comfortable and I could see very well. My only own complain was the group of teenage girls behind us. True, I’m not complaining about having them there, but I could have done without them inhaling loudly when the top billing star appeared or when they stated singing “Brother hood of man”. I can tell you that their voices went up several octaves at numerous points during the performance, though for the most part they were reasonable.
This is actually the curtains for the show...Best Curtains EVER!
The Beginning’s Interesting Events
From the very beginning to the very end, you could tell who ran the show. Daniel Radcliffe didn’t just walk on stage like a normal actor, because frankly he is not so he couldn’t do anything normal. Now, the Al Hirschfeld theatre has this orquestra pit right between the stage and the audience. This is nothing very special, I mean three of the four musicals had a pit, but it was how it was used that was important. They had the conductor move to the left, so when the music began, who other than Daniel Radcliffe was hoisted up into the air. He was helped by (a broom! Sorry, had to say when talking about Harry Potter) some sort of pulley system, which reminded me of those old window washer hoisters which makes sense given that his character actually started out as a window washer. Another interesting fact about this beginning was that while Radcliffe was in the air, some sort of metal piece from the pulley fell off and nearly beaned the conductor in the head. Thankfully, he had not moved back to his original spot, so he was safe from being hit. For Raddcliffe and the conductor’s credit, they never seemed to react to what had just happened, though Radcliffe you could tell had seen it fall.

Daniel Radcliffe and J. Pierrepont Finch
Daniel Radcliffe is the icon of this decade. Anyone who doesn’t know who Daniel Radcliffe is, then they know who Harry Potter is. I’m sure he won this role because of his popularity and fame, but he actually proved himself to be something more than a wizard with a scar; he proved to be an actor who can fit in any role he wants to play and do a good job too. He surprisingly has a great singing voice and his performance was not to be missed. It was cool that I was in the same room as him! I expected the British accent we normally hear from him, but in this role, his voice was almost normal. Throughout the performance, when his character had a break on his way to succeed in business, they would shine a spot light on his face and he would have this great big grin on his face. It was so COOL!

John Laraquette
I feel uncomfortable talking all about Daniel Radcliffe especially with all the great talent which was put into this production! One such talent which also shown bright to me was John Laraquette, who played J. B. Biggley (the president of the company Finch is employed at). I’ll be honest didn’t know him before this production. The older people around me knew him from a show called Night Court, which I have never seen, but if John was in it, I would say it was good. He had some great facial expressions. He didn’t even need to say a word to get the audience to roar with laughter. All he had to do was to give us a look and we would break out laughing. I don’t know many people who have such a power, but John Laraquette sure does have it. He is just such a strong playful force! To tell how playful he seemed, at the end of the musical during the bows right before the final song, I saw him stick his tongue out. I don’t know who he was doing it to, but it was cool to see and sure brought a smile to MY face.

The Plot
Basically, Daniel Radcliffe’s character wants to do well in business and reads a book coincidentally called “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”. It was one of those self help books where if you follow all the steps given you will succeed in whatever the topic is or so you can be lead to believe. This is the story of a guy trying to move up in the world, but doing it very quickly!

The Songs
There are so many fun songs from this musical, such as “A secretary is not a toy” (where the employees drool over sectaries while reminding themselves what they’re not supposed to do…all the lyrics are actually appropriate!). I think the best song of the whole thing of course is "Brotherhood of Man", which I dedicated our title to…

The Set
 The set was wonderful! They had two different levels to it. The first and bottom level of the set was like any other stage. However, just above that were two balconies like place the actors could stand on. These two balconies could be extended almost across the entire upper part of the stage. There was also a scene where the characters were supposed to be in an elevator. When the character walked through the door way and the doors closed, this elevator box could be turned so we could see inside. Very cool set!

Afterward Memorable Moments
I want to also mention something that happened after we saw the musical, just to add to the magical night and week. You see, when we stepped out of the Al Hirschfeld theatre, it was raining. My parents huddled under one umbrella while I was under a blue cheep flimsy thing. Now, this might be a problem for some people, but this was New York City! And the side walk I was walking on was none other the side walks of Broadway! The place of magic and the place of magic! So, I sang “Singing in the Rain”, stepping through the puddles with an umbrella on Broadway! Granted I didn’t sing too loudly, but still it was very memorable!

It was such a great musical! Its one of those uplifting shows you just enjoy! Addams was odd, Spider-man was rocking, but this WAS a musical! It was just plane fun!

I once again point out I don’t own this musical nor do I claim to represent the owners of the rights of this musical, though I wish I did! The following clip was from the Tony Awards, introduced by two former J. J. Pierrepont Finches (Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick):