Saturday, July 9, 2011


The most fascinating thing about Catch Me if You Can is why all those gifted people would want to make it into a musical. The movie on which it is based was an episodic caper about a charming young con man, played by Leonardo di Caprio, and was redeemed by the idiosyncratic Christopher Walken as his father and the always weighty imprimatur of Steven Spielberg. But a musical needs to unfold, not be explained.

The gargantuan comedic talents of Norbert Leo Butz as the pursuer of the young culprit, are here squished into an uncomfortable wrinkled suit and a scowling demeanor. The bad boy himself, Aaron Tveit, is cute but nothing to build a show around. His 'takes' as he gets yet another darkly bright idea make one long for the original production of How to Succeed and the inimitable Bobby Morse. Mark Shaiman is a gifted composer and arranger, but nothing here shines except for his autobiographical program notes, which are wittier than anything in the show.

A few blocks away is The Book of Mormon. I was successful in getting a ticket last week, a cause for congratulations from all I knew, since it is unquestionably the biggest hit in eons. But except for one song that moved me, the show seemed what I would have to characterize as 'Ka Ka' humor.

The biggest surprise on the Great (and expensive) White Way is Sister Act. The musical adaptation of the Whoopi Goldberg movie, I went expecting nothing. To my astonishment it is riddled with wonderful songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, a dynamite and dazzling leading lady in Patina Miller, who rocks and discos with the best of them -- maybe even better than the best, and the pure and touching soprano of Victoria Clark as the Mother Superior. For those who missed the movie, Patina plays a singer who saw a murder and is hiding out in a convent. The device and its movie past aside, this is flat-out entertainment at its sequined best. Exhausted at having been so disappointed with what people were saying was good, I, like the woman at the center of the show, was redeemed.