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!


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