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Powerhouse performers in “Catch Me If You Can” make for a show you definitely should catch (Review- Croswell Opera House) July 20, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, Entertainment, musical theater.
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Back in 2009, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman hoped to recreate their “Hairspray” success with a musical version of “Catch Me If You Can”. It never really caught on despite generally good reviews and lots of Tony Award exposure and nominations. The show did a decent tour — and now you can catch a dynamite production of the musical at Croswell Opera House in Adrian, MI

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You probably are familiar with the autobiographical book, or the movie version of the story: young kid sets off to create a new life for himself and escape his marital-stress family background and finds himself becoming a millionaire by forging checks, creating new personas for himself (co-pilot, lawyer, doctor, teacher) and keeping the FBI chasing him for several years. The musical’s conceit is that it places the story into a “flashback variety show” like those that were popular in 60’s television. The tunes and numbers all reflect production numbers on a tv variety show. The ensemble cast play all the singers/dancers in these numerous scenes, and play minor roles in the “story” as it spills out over two and a half hours of non-stop entertainment. Michael Yuen directs with a sure hand, and things barrel along at lighting speed.

First and foremost — see the show for the terrific leads: Patrick Wallace is a superb singing/acting/dancing powerhouse as Frank Abagnale, Jr. Keep an eye on this young musical theater student from Siena Heights University because his next stop is going to be Broadway.  Also terrific are Jared Hoffert as Frank Abagnale Sr, Lucy Hagedorn as Paula Abagnale, and Paul Manger as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. Kyrie Bristle turns in a powerhouse performance as Brenda Strong, the wholesome southern girl to whom Frank Jr finally loses his heart (and clear thinking). Her parents are hilariously played by John Bacarella and Debbie Corbin.

Second, see the show for the terrific ensemble singing/dancing cast. They support the leads in the many many musical numbers, and the dancing (very creative and energetic by Sarah Nowak) is some of the best you’ll see on local stages.  Keeping with the Broadway production, the orchestra is on stage (ala Lawrence Welk, Mitch Miller, etc) and they sound terrific under the musical direction of Dave Rains, who has also done wonderful work with the cast.

Third, see it for the marvelous technical production — from Leo Babcock’s multi-level set with light-up stairs, to Tiff Crutchfield’s lighting,  and sound design by Phillip and Elizabeth Baugh. I lost count of the costume changes by Pam Krage, but they look terrific and every major number is a different color and style. Technical Director Keith Holloway clearly had his work cut out for him, and it all runs smoothly and efficiently.

Finally, see it for the clever and funny book by Terrence McNally, the melodic songs by Wittman and Shaiman, and the chance to see a musical theater piece that is a creative mix of classic and modern musical styles. You might even find yourself buying the cast album after seeing the show – the score is that “catch”y….see what I did there?….

With Les Miserables and Catch Me If You Can, The Croswell Opera House has two shows this summer that will be remembered many years from now as among the best of class…do not miss it. I’m going back next weekend. I loved it.

Highly recommended.

Catch Me If You Can continues at The Croswell Opera House through July 27th. Croswell.org or 517-264-SHOW for tickets.

“Up in the Air”; “Sherlock Holmes”; “It’s Complicated”; “The Blind Side” (Review) December 30, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Movies.
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I’ve previously reviewed “Nine”, “The Princess and the Frog”, “Avatar”, and “2010” from this holiday season. Here are four more.

First — the far-and-away best movie of the holiday season is UP IN THE AIR. Directed by Jason Reitman, it’s a timely and highly entertaining look at the life of a social-tie disconnected man whose job it is to travel across the country as serve as a job termination consultant. But more than that, it’s about the love of motion, the freedom from emotional connection, and the sense of complete egotistical freedom to do what you want, when, where, and with whom one chooses — until choices need to be made that may (or may not) change that lifestyle forever. It’s brilliant film-making. For local interest, much of it was filmed here in Detroit.

To be sure, this is not a film for under 20’s — and I’m not sure it’s a film for under 40’s…it takes a certain amount of life experience, skepticism, and humor to fully appreciate the amazing script and performances at play here. Have no doubt, keep your under-16’s at home – it’s an adult film with adult themes, sexual situations, and language. Kids will also be bored stiff, since they won’t be able to relate to the story nor the central dilemma. This is a film that takes at its core that it is OK not to be in a relationship, something that is foreign to most kids. It’s a film that will stay with you long after you see it. This is my personal choice for this year’s Best Picture.

Much more enjoyable than it should be, SHERLOCK HOLMES is Guy Ritchie’s take on the tried and true Watson/Holmes formula — but throw what you know about this out the window — here, the duo is re-imagined as an action/adventure duo, and it generally works well. The CGI work and the recreation of London is terrific cinematography, and the film is quirky enough to keep you on your toes. Good guys win, bad guys lose, and the ending points to a sequel. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. are both terrific, and I completely found myself entertained by this quirky take on the genre. It’s a popcorn movie that is fun. It’s not for tiny tots, but it is generally family friendly. There is some Guy-Ritchie type violence here, but it’s done with a great sense of humor and relatively tastefully compared to his previous movies. Holmes purists will hate the film, it’s not meant for them — it’s a popcorn adventure movie with a bit of Die Hard, Van Helsing, and Indiana Jones thrown into the mix.

Finally, I have to admit that I laughed more at IT’S COMPLICATED than I have at any movie this year. It’s formulaic, and very funny. Don’t get me wrong, this is not nuanced subtle humor — this is more in the vein of recent crude comedies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. It has great performances, and its plain old funny. This is another picture that is inappropriate for your kids (not that they wouldn’t find it funny). It’s adult fun, and it has more laughs per scene than any other out there right now. Streep and Baldwin are terrific together, and there are also great performances from Steve Martin and John Krasinski.

The Blind Side is the surprise box-office hit film about Michael Oher’s rags to riches rise from the slums of Memphis to pro football. Sandra Bullock turns in a nicely performed role as his no-nonsense adaptive mother (and she’s channeling Kathy Lee Gifford all the way), and Tim McGraw is eye-candy as her husband. He gets lines like “I know that look” and “I think I know who is going to win this argument”.  The film is a tear-jerker that is appropriate for the entire family, and I really liked it. It’s Lifetime Movie Channel fare done one better with a big budget and a big star. But you care about these people, and this year, there haven’t been that many movies where you do. I even liked the Tim McGraw song over the final credits. This makes for a great date movie or a family evening out. Go see it, you’ll feel good about what nice people can still do in the world.

Sadly, my most anticipated movie of the year, A SINGLE MAN, has yet to open in Michigan, and it looks like it’s not on the books anywhere locally for the time being, Will report back on that once it is released here.

All in all, I would have to rank the current crop of pictures in the following order as far as my favorite of 2009:

1. Up in the Air

2. Avatar

3. The Hurt Locker

4. Precious

5. Up

6. District 9

7. Star Trek

8. Invictus

9. The Blind Side

10. (500) Days of Summer