I know that it's been days since my last blog and much has happened. Restaurants and shows are taking up my time and that's good. How To Succeed In Business on Broadway. Lair restaurant in lower Manhattan and more. I will get to them at some point but while it's most fresh in my mind I most recently saw Catch Me If You Can on Broadway and Neil Berg's Broadway Show Stoppers. Here's the reviews.
CATCH THEM IF YOU CAN
Broadway has Catch Me If You Can and Queens Theatre in the Park (QTIP) has Neil Berg’s Broadway Showstoppers both worthy of major kudos.
Let me first begin with Catch Me If You Can, a musical comedy based upon the movie of the same name, being performed at the Neil Simon Theatre. “Based upon” is the key phrase here and not to be compared to the cinema version.
Catch Me If You Can, if you are not familiar with the plot, tells the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Aaron Tveit), a world-class con artist who passed himself off as a doctor, a lawyer and a jet pilot all before the age of 21. “I was a millionaire twice over and half again before I was twenty-one. I stole every nickel of it. I flew over five million miles as a Pan Am pilot, practiced medicine at a top Atlanta hospital, and worked as a prosecutor for the State Louisiana, all under assumed names. Mister Hanratty thinks he has all the facts, but only I know just how I did it. And I did it in style.”
The show opens with FBI agents lead by Agent Carl Hanratty (Norbert Leo Butz) chasing and finally capturing Frank, who wants to tell his tale but as a show. Lights, sets, orchestra to the first chorus number as he sings, “Live in living color, let me take you for a ride. Yes, I’m live in living color, so sit back and let me be your t.v. guide”.
He introduces us to his parents, Frank Abagnale (Tom Wopat) and Paula Abagnale (Rachel de Benedet) who met in France. Next intro is to the Strong family: Brenda (Kerry Butler), Roger (Nick Wyman), and Carol (Linda Hart). They are just introductions and we will get the stories as they begin the flashbacks.
As we get into Frank Sr.’s relationship (which seems quite romantic in the beginning) his philosophy comes up as he tells his son, “You know why the Yankees win all the time? It’s not the Mick. It’s not the Pepitone. It’s the uniform. The other teams just stand there, staring at the pinstripes, mesmerized.” His son will remember this.
The first act showcases Butz in a grand production number, “Breaking All The Rules”, with both his singing and fantastic dancing, who we have to thank choreographer Jerry Mitchell for.
Second story/philosophy that will be remembered. Two mice fell in some cream. One gave up and drowned. The other fought so hard that the cream churned to butter and he walked out.
Two good numbers that highlighted Butler’s vocal ability was her duet with Tveit, “Seven Wonders” and solo “Fly, Fly Away”. As for Tveit himself, he is definitely a “song and dance” man.
Will any of the songs become catchy tunes that you will hum or sing the lyrics to? It all depends upon the how long the show runs and that it looks as if a cast album will be emerging.
Also, let’s give credit to the all of the cast for their acting talent and “The Frank Abagnale, Jr. Players for the Busby Berkley style of musical numbers that included the proverbial “Rockets-kicking” section. In other words, I loved the show. Pure entertainment and funny.
And for those who do not know the outcome of it all, Frank Abagnale, Jr. was first incarcerated and then hired by the F.B.I. due to his knowledge of phony checks, something he had also specialized in himself.
Now we are off to Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, home to QTIP. Neil Berg is the composer/lyricist of the hit Off-Broadway musical The Prince and the Pauper and is presently working on his new show, Grumpy Old Men The Musical. Neil having a long list of show business and familiarity of musicals, put together another one of his shows, “Neil Berg’s Broadway Showstoppers”, a sort of cabaret of Broadway stars presenting some numbers that they are known for or others that are well-known from past and present Broadway shows.
There are two casts. The one that I saw included Ron Bohmer (Phantom), his wife Sandra Joseph (Phantom), Natalie Toro (Tale of Two Cities), Chuck Wagner (Beauty and the Beast), and Ted Louis Levy who gives us the song and dance of Sammy Davis, Jr. You can certainly appreciate his tap dancing talent!
Neil, who plays the piano, gives us all of the introductions to both the performers and songs as well as having both a drummer and guitarist as a backup. What makes the show so worthwhile is that you’re getting these great Broadway stars without the dialogues from the shows. There was one scene, with Chuck and Ron and the highlight of Ron and Sandra as they performed as the Phantom and Christine. Also outstanding was Toro singing “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, and Memories, and Chuck singing his “beastly song”. There’s not a bad song in the show.
The show will be performed April 27th to May 1st, as Lawrence Clayton (Civil War) and Rita Harvey (Fiddler on the Roof), replace Ron and Sandra. As for the price, the most expensive seat is $40 for an hour and a half extravaganza. www.queenstheatre.org
Okay, here's my review of How To Succeed.
HARRY POTTER SUCCESS IN SUCCEED by Merle Exit
If you’re going to produce a Broadway musical comedy revival, what better than to cast “Harry Potter” in the leading role. It’s the 50th anniversary production of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe as J. Pierrepont Finch, the window washer who succeeds.
Before I get to the “critique” of this show, I want to address those who have neither experienced a live or movie version of the play that opens with Finch sitting on a scaffold of the windows of the World Wide Wicket Company reading a book entitled, “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” as the book voice (in this case it is journalist Anderson Cooper) is heard.
He applies for a job by first “bumping into” J. B. Biggley (John Larroquette), the president, who tells him to go to personnel. This is followed by Rosemary Pilkington (Rose Hemingway), one of the secretaries, who overhears the conversation and who will soon become the other half of the romantic plot. Rosemary offers to have Finch meet Smitty (Mary Faber), secretary to Bert Bratt (Michael Park), the personnel manager. Before she can do so, Finch encounters Bratt who asks what he’s doing, telling him that they are not hiring, to which Finch replies by saying that he was just speaking with Mr. Biggley. Bratt concluding that they are friends, hires him to start in the mailroom, the stereotype job for working one’s way from the bottom.
It is here that we are introduced to Bud Frump (Christopher J. Hanke), a mailroom clerk who is also the nephew of Biggley and who will keep reporting back to or whining to his mother, Biggley’s sister. Any of Bud’s moving up is a result of Biggley’s affair with Hedy LaRue (Tammy Blanchard), who he hires simply to have her “around”, although obviously not having any secretarial skills or much intelligence.
The rest of the plot centers on the rising success of Finch due to following the points of the book, while Bud competes using nepotism.
Now for the performance. Radcliffe’s acting is just fine, his singing voice is strong and the shock is his dancing feet. Larroquette is the perfect choice for Biggley who I was surprised to read that this is his Broadway debut. He is nothing short (in fact he towers over Radcliffe) of his comical character, has a fabulous singing voice and also does well with choreography.
We have to applaud Rob Ashford for both the choreography and direction. Three of the numbers got thunderous applause. “Coffee Break” is one of the most amusing as much of the office meets at the coffee machine to find that it’s out of coffee. OMG what will they do if they can’t take this standard break in the day? The second biggy is Radcliffe and Larroquette’s performance of “Grand Ole Ivy” having Finch find out about Biggley’s alma mater and love for knitting.
Make sure that your final number is boasting with chorus, energy, and talent. That’s another formula for success, as in “Brotherhood of Man”.
One thing that should be kept in mind is that the storyline has not been changed to suit the times. The only job for women are being secretaries and I doubt that unless you’re old enough you will not get a line about one secretary who wants to “finish my Metrecal”. The product was one of those “diet-drink-for-lunch substitutes”. I remember due to my having used the joke, “Did you hear that Metrecal won the “No-Belly Prize”?
Thumbs up for Hemingway’s talent, who also made her Broadway debut. She got to show off her voice in “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm” and “Been A Long Day”.
That leads me to the songs composed by Frank Loesser that have become a mainstay over the years. The most recognizable is “I Believe In You”, which is probably the most “associated”. “Company Way”, and the fore-mentioned will either perk our memories or stick with us for many more moons.
How To Succeed is playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre at 45th Street just west of 8th Avenue and should be placed on your list of “must see” shows.
IT'S BEEN AWHILE BUT
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