If only that time machine from "Back To The Future" was real.

How many moments have you wished that you could go back in time? More importantly, how many times have you wished you could go back in time solely for the purpose of seeing a show that came and went before your time?

.....Bueller? .....Bueller?

It just so happens that Hillary and I play this game quite a lot. I mean, in a perfect world where time could suspend itself, money grew on trees, and schoolwork completed itself, we'd spend every waking moment expanding our show-going repertoires. And although more than a few shows over the past few seasons have opened and closed before we could see them, we may or may not be more devastated in some cases that, for example, we never saw the original production of A Chorus Line....because it opened in 1975 and we weren't born yet. Bummer. Or the original cast of Spring Awakening - because while I did everything I possibly could to convince Mom to take 17-year-old me on a 400-mile trip across the country (literally, there were spreadsheets involved), it just wasn't in the cards.

On the occasion of a light homework night, I thought it'd be fun to give our readers a little break from reading about the shows we've seen by reading about...well, the shows we wish we'd have seen. You know, if we'd lived in closer proximity to New York during our formative infantile years. Or met each other earlier. Or...been alive.

1. The Last Five Years. This show, okay...this show. Since a two-month off-Broadway run in 2002, Jason Robert Brown's one-act creation has become a staple of regional theaters, underground-theater lovers, and cabarets. While JRB can certainly be viewed as the forerunner of composers like Kerrigan  and Lowdermilk and Adam Gwon, the style and approach he takes in crafting a complete show is unmistakable. (See also: ParadeSongs For A New World, and 13.) TL5Y features just two characters, Jamie and Cathy, two 20-somethings who fall in and out of love over a period of five years. The cool part? Jamie tells his side of the story from beginning to end, and Cathy tells her side of the story from end to beginning, with the couple's stories overlapping just once in the middle. The way the relationship's painful end is placed in direct juxtaposition with the carefree anticipation of its beginning is complex and delicate and honest and beautiful and just plain different from any other musical we've ever heard of. Not to mention that the show's themes will always be universally relevant (except for that Borders' reference in "A Summer in Ohio"...poor Borders); it's intriguing to think that the show, minus a few name changes and minor details, could work just as well with a same-sex couple.

JRB's lyrical and compositional style is unlike most modern-day Broadway scores, and rises above many of them - he seems to live by the "show, don't tell" mantra, and  every single word and note has a purpose. I mean, who else would think to rhyme "mahvelous" with "novelist," or "Klimovich" with "limb-o-vich"? And in the midst of a countless number of cast recordings, JRB's intricate string and piano arrangements in this show are some of the most gorgeous we've ever heard. The ebb and flow of the violins in "The Next Ten Minutes"? The staccato transition from "If I Didn't Believe In You" to "I Can Do Better Than That"? "Nobody Needs To Know" in its entirety, but especially when the chimes kick in at the middle section? Guh.

Also, we love Norbert Leo Butz, we love Sherie Rene Scott, and we love JRB. The only thing we'd love even more? A REVIVAL. As previously mentioned, any time these three want to put on a benefit concert of the show, we are so there. In the meantime, though, we love to dream-cast a multitude of our favorite actors in the roles of Jamie and Cathy. So many exciting possibilities that will most likely never happen. But hey, a girl can dream, right?

2. The original Broadway cast of Rent. Is there even a question why this holds a top spot on our list? The first conversation Hillary and I ever had may or may not have concerned our mutual love for Idina Menzel. We've waxed poetic about Jonathan Larson's work before. And as much as we adore each production that we have seen, Rent, we can only assume, must be one of the best examples of an original cast that exuded an irreplaceable and almost magical quality. When the revival currently playing at New World Stages opened last month, we respected Ben Brantley's review, but at the same time wondered how he could devote so much of his critique to comparing the production to the original. When it moved into the Nederlander Theatre in 1996, Rent became a cultural phenomenon almost instantly; given the circumstances surrounding its opening and the bond that both Mr. Larson's work and passing created amongst the cast, it's unlikely that any other incarnation would be able to attain that same level of emotion and catharsis. And while we questioned whether it was fair of Mr. Brantley to make a comparison that, to us, seemed impossible to live up to, that same logic is precisely why we'd give anything to experience the show with its original cast, and nearly all of whom have gone on to become stars in their own right.

3. [title of show]. Another fairly short-lived show, only one act long but by no means lacking in wit, hilarity, honesty, and heart. And inside theater jokes flying left and right. Read: the kind of thing that Hillary and I love the most. The long-awaited chance to see a production of [tos] at George Street Playhouse earlier this year turned us into official [tos]sers, and while the cast was SO wonderful and we had an absolute ball, there was one small thing we couldn't quite deny. See, [title of show] tells the story of four people, trying to write a musical about writing a musical, and chronicles the show's successes and failures on its way to Broadway. It's literally a microcosm of itself. [tos]'s creators and original cast members - Jeff, Hunter, Heidi, and Susan - are literally the characters in the show. Literally. These four goofballs (a term we only use in the most endearing, we-love-you-and-worship-everything-you-do way possible) are the real deal, and we wish dearly that we could have been part of it all. But, we thank our lucky stars every day that the four reunited this summer for 1) an episode of Side By Side with Susan Blackwell, 2) a theatri-concert of their newest collaboration, Now.Here.This. (which Hillary was privileged to see and informed me that it was quite close to life-changing), and that....*drum roll*... 3) said collaboration will be produced as a full production by off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre in March 2012!!! Eek. Normally, it seems, our favorite theatrical co-conspirators will create something so amazingly awesome...and then never have the chance to work together again. So this is a pretty frickin' sweet cause for celebration. They're smart, they're hilarious, and they'd rather be nine people's favorite thing than a hundred peoples' ninth favorite thing. And for that, we love them.

Honorable mentions go out to:

- The Story of My Life. Who isn't intrigued by an intimate Broadway show that closed after only 18 previews and 5 regular performances, especially when it starred Will Chase and Malcolm Gets, playing two boyhood friends? Interestingly enough, the show is another one-act-er...we're seeing a pattern here. Thankfully, Neil Bartram's nostalgic score was preserved on a cast recording, and it's certainly worth a listen. The orchestrations are fantastic. I only wish that I'd been able to watch the dialog, and the show's one big catch, played out onstage before figuring it out from the OCR myself.

- Ragtime. While we can lamentably use our youth and distance from New York as an excuse for missing the original production, which featured Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, and a young Lea Michele (yes, all of them...in the same show...our point exactly), we have no excuse whatsoever for omitting the short-lived 2009 revival from our schedule.

- And finally, Gypsy. The Patti LuPone/Laura Benanti version. No explanation needed.

Our unedited, uninhibited reactions to the closing of "Catch Me If You Can"

So many feelings.

As you may or may not know, tonight (really this afternoon since it was a 3:00 matinee, but still) was the closing performance of Catch Me if You Can. While the show got mixed reviews and closed before it was scheduled to, Michelle and I are unabashed, unapologetic fans of the show (we may be a wee bit biased because it stars our favorite GQMF Aaron Tveit, but the show has quickly become one of our favorites for more than just its dashing, golden-voiced leading man). That said, we entered the Neil Simon tonight with mixed feelings - on the one hand, excited to see a show we enjoyed immensely get a proper send-off; on the other, disheartened that what we believe is a very good show close before its time while others of, in our opinion, lesser quality remain open.

*Deep breath.*

It was an emotional ride, to say the least. The show itself is energetic and infectious, due largely in part to the score written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Although, if you ask the annoying, loud, and opinionated lady sitting in front of us at closing, the music was one of the weakest parts of the show. Given that she stated numerous times that she was a huge fan of Hairspray, we're a little confused since, ya know, they're written by the same people. And just a thought - perhaps you shouldn't be demeaning the score of a show at intermission, much less in the theater where anybody related to the show (directors, producers, composers, etc.) could be sitting and overhearing you. We believe in everyone's right to their opinion. We also believe in being classy and adhering to theater etiquette. But we digress.

But before we get too deep into our feelings about the closing performance, we would just like to take a moment to acknowledge the only understudy we saw during Catch Me's run on Broadway - Alex Ellis, who understudied the role of Brenda and who we were lucky enough to catch (haha, see what we did there) twice during the run - her first night on as Brenda, and her last. Being able to see her twice let us see how nicely she settled into the role - her first night, she was definitely nervous (but still fantastic), but when we saw her last performance as Brenda, it was obvious that she felt more comfortable in the role. Her Brenda, to us, was more real than Kerry Butler's; where Ms. Butler at times opted to portray Brenda as a naive, innocent girl, Ms. Ellis' Brenda sparred with Mr. Tveit's Frank. She challenged him, and that challenge made Frank more engaged and invested in the life he was leading. We've always seen Brenda as the catalyst that drives Frank to be more than just a bystander in his own story; it's her that makes him want to be a real person, to do more than just play a part. To us, Ms. Ellis' Brenda did that organically and seamlessly.

Having said that, both Ms. Ellis and Ms. Butler have powerhouse voices and both brought the house down with "Fly, Fly Away." These ladies can belt their faces off.

You know who else can belt their faces off? Pretty much every member of this ensemble. They sing, they dance, they make fierce show faces (Rachelle Rak, we're looking at you. You go, girl). "Jet Set" and "Doctor's Orders" are two of our favorite numbers from the show, and they thrive almost solely on the power of the ensemble. Is there any other show on Broadway that allows its ensemble members to play such a significant role in the story or has two numbers almost completely devoted to showcasing their mad skills? Not that we can think of. Anything Goes came to mind, with its ensemble of insanely talented tap dancers who can dance for five minutes straight and then bust out a tune without gasping for breath, but even they don't get as many solos as these girls get throughout the show. It's damn impressive, and we wanted to take this opportunity to give them their due.

There's really no way to do this without feeling so many emotions that it makes us want to run away and hide in an alternate reality where Aaron Tveit sings soothing lullabies 24/7, so we're just going to get right down to the nitty-gritty, emotional intensity that was the closing performance. The show started off with its usual high energy - Aaron was in top-form vocally and his voice is just so damn pretty that you can't help but fall in love with it (and him) from the moment he hits his first ridiculously high note in "Live in Living Color." It really says something about his talent and vocal range that he can sing notes that are both too high and too low for either Michelle or I to reach when we blast the cast recording in the car and sing along at the top of our lungs (for those of you wondering, yes, that's exactly what happened on the car ride back to campus tonight). Anyways, the moral of the story is that the score drives the show, and there's nobody better to be at the wheel than the GQMF. Literally the best he has sounded. Ever.

Also, Norbert Leo Butz, Tony Award winner extraordinaire and the reigning winner of the Fred Astaire Award for Best Male Dancer on Broadway, was in top form as well. He got huge entrance applause, and his performance of "Don't Break the Rules" stopped the show for so long that poor Norbs was left futilely attempting to push down ensemble members' arms from their final poses in an effort to continue with the show. Looking back on our previous post about Catch Me if You Can, Michelle and I think that we were unfairly lukewarm on Norbert's performance, probably due in part to the fact that at the time, we were still smarting over Aaron's Tony nomination snub. In the time since we wrote that post, we have fallen completely in love with his Agent Hanratty, from his fantastic dance moves to his dry wit to the case of chronic smoker's lung he has developed over the course of the run (and by that, we mean that he now wheezes and has intermittent panic attacks in the middle of a scene. It's as ridiculous as it is wonderful). Add in the fact that he seems like a genuinely nice guy and has the best bromance ever with our favorite golden-haired matinee idol, and we can't say enough good things about his performance. Mr. Butz's full-out dedication to his role, and his chaotically beautiful dancing, will always be remembered. Also, any time he wants to do a benefit concert of The Last 5 Years with Sherie Rene Scott and Jason Robert Brown, we are so there. Just throwing that out into the universe. It's worked for us before (see: Meghann Fahy in Sam Brown. And yes, we just managed to once again insert Meghann Fahy into a blog post that really has nothing to do with her. It's a gift).

And now, the man whose face incites a harem of screaming fangirls to shriek at decibels previously only audible to dogs, whose perfectly coiffed hair was never out of place even while playing softball, whose farmer tan (and nice abs and nice arms and nice... everything) never dimmed under the harsh stage lights, and whose voice and charm make us swoon on a regular basis: Broadway's Hottest Leading Man, Aaron Tveit. And that's just the abbreviated version of his resume. Other special skills include scatting, magic tricks, and throwing his hat like a Frisbee - twice. Did we mention he can sing his face off? We have always felt that Tivs is the driving force behind this show - it is, after all, Frank's story. We were so happy that he finally had a vehicle to showcase the ridiculous amount of talent he possesses, and we can't believe that we will never get to see his electrifying, incredibly charming performance again. There are so many moments when his voice gives us chills - from the opening notes of "Live in Living Color," when his soaring voice smacks the audience in the face and lets them know that they're in for a hell of a show; the little riff he does during "Jet Set" when he tells the audience to 'buckle up, next stop is lo-o-ove'; any time he uses his falsetto; the insanely high note he reaches in "Seven Wonders"; and, perhaps most chill-inducing, his performance of "Goodbye."

So, from the get-go, Michelle and I knew that "Goodbye" was going to be a tough one to get through today. Every line of that song is so poignant and painfully ironic when looked at in the context of the show closing. The song addresses the ending of Frank's own personal show - his insistence that he get his happy ending. Even without the context of the show closing, the song is such a thrilling, heart-stopping number. It's always been one of our favorite songs from the show, precisely because it is so emotionally powerful. Needless to say, Aaron was a wee bit emotional. He sang the first line softly, his voice wavering and almost cracking and reducing us to shaking puddles of emotion in our seats. My heart was legitimately in my throat for the entire song. It was so obvious that he was feeling every line as he sang it. By the time he reached the bridge, about how he wasn't afraid of stopping, I was in tears, and so was he. And when he belted out the final chorus and the backdrop rose to reveal the orchestra lit in white (always a chill-inducing moment), you could really feel that this was it. This truly was, to be completely cliched, goodbye. Even as Michelle and I attempt to write this post, words are failing us to describe this performance. It's one we'll always remember but will never be able to put into words. It was emotion in its purest form, and the audience responded to that emotion with an instant standing ovation. The audience was on its feet, and Tom Wopat and Linda Hart were standing in the aisle next to the stairs leading backstage, applauding as well. It was one of the most powerful responses I have ever seen to a performance, and Aaron was clearly touched and overwhelmed. He looked at Norbert as if to say "is this for real?" and all Norbert could do was nod at him like a proud papa. It was wonderful to see Aaron get the recognition and love he deserved from the audience, both fans and industry peers alike, and the standing ovation was an incredibly touching moment and one that will stay with us for a while.

In case we haven't made it glaringly obvious, we kind of think Aaron Tveit is the bee's knees. Beyond his talent and natural charisma, there is a serious work ethic and dedication to his craft. He never missed a performance in Catch Me's Broadway run - for those of you keeping score at home, that's 202 consecutive performances. Given the fact that he sings the majority of the score and is on stage for 93% of the show, we think that's damn impressive. And so do Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. In their closing night speech at curtain call, they singled out Aaron for his performance and thanked him for essentially carrying the show on his shoulders. Given that some theater message boards alluded to Aaron's performance as a reason for the show's premature closing, it was touching to see that Aaron was in no way being held responsible for any perceived failings or shortcoming. Instead, the creative team celebrated his contributions and thanked him for an incredible performance (which, in our view, is totally justified).

Despite what this love-letter of a post may lead you to believe, we don't think this show was perfect. It had its flaws and its moments that fell flat. But in a theater culture where The Book of Mormon is hailed as the second coming of Broadway and jukebox musicals reign supreme, it was refreshing to see an original score performed at such a high level by such talented actors. It's disappointing that Catch Me If You Can could not capture enough of an audience to remain open on the Great White Way, but we feel confident that it will be successful on tour. While we feel saddened that we won't be able to return, we are grateful that we got to experience such a high-energy, feel-good musical that left us tapping our toes and humming a tune. Congratulations to the cast, crew, and creative team on a hell of a run, no matter how unfortunately abbreviated.

P.S. - we can't wait for Smash!