Sold-out shows defy past Broadway expectations

By Kimberly Ortiz 

The Yvonne Theater was filled to capacity during the weekend of Nov. 18. Audiences found themselves in musical theater heaven when the School of Fine and Performing Arts presented the musical Catch Me If You Can. Directed and choreographed by Robin Lewis, with musical direction by Nathan Hurwitz, the show was a hit among audiences from all over, even selling out for the show’s last two performances.

Based on the DreamWorks motion picture of the same name, the story follows Frank Abagnale Jr., a young con man who pretends to be a pilot, doctor and lawyer, all while running from FBI agent Carl Hanratty.

Although the show featured a variety of talented cast members who brought enough energy to light a stadium, it was sophomore musical theater major Nick Ziobro who carried the show as Abagnale Jr., from the moment he recited the lines of “True Story.” At the beginning of the show, it was clear that Ziobro was ready for the challenge of portraying a variety of jobs by one character, all while singing and dancing his way into the hearts of audience members. His performance was a major standout, not only because Abagnale Jr., was the main role, but because he was able to successfully fill the shoes of Aaron Tveit, who starred in the role on Broadway several years before.

After the opening number, we are introduced to Frank’s parents, Frank Abagnale Sr., and Paula Abagnale. Abagnale was portrayed by senior popular music culture major Eddie Brandt, who brought the charm and suavity that was needed to portray the intelligent father. Paula Abagnale was played by senior musical theater major Emma Rose Brooks, who successfully pulled off the French accent that was needed for the character. Their rendition of “Don’t Be a Stranger,” seen in the second act of the show, was full of the chemistry that an estranged couple with a troubled son would have.

Brandt’s and Ziobro’s rapport as father and son ultimately brought more meaning to the show. With songs like “The Pinstripes Are All They See” and the memorable father-son duo “Butter Outta Cream,” it was visible to the audience that the relationship the two actors had onstage was the same that they had offstage.

Although the show focused on specific characters, it was able to incorporate showgirls and guys that would typically be seen in big Broadway musical productions. With the help of senior musical theater Colby Dezelick, Lewis’ stunning choreography for songs like “Jet Set,” “Doctor’s Orders” and “(Our) Family Tree” incorporated the dancers, providing a livelier feeling to each performance.

However, it was senior musical theater major Travis Przybylski as Agent Carl Hanratty who really brought the energy with the dancers to “Don’t Break the Rules,” which had audiences applauding each night for up to a minute’s time. Przybylski brought everything to his last performance as a Rider student: humor, energy and passion.

In the second act, Abagnale Jr. meets his dream girl, Brenda Strong, portrayed by senior musical theater major Chloe Voreis. Voreis brought the right amount of heart and soul each night as Strong, especially with her solo, “Fly, Fly Away,” in which she says goodbye to Abagnale Jr., hoping one day that they will meet again after he leaves her to avoid Hanratty catching him.

Unfortunately for Abagnale Jr., this does not work, and he is ultimately caught, bringing the audience back to where the story began. Hanratty does not force Abagnale to run from him; however, he gives him options that would allow him to receive bail and get out of prison early, offering him a job with the FBI once he is out. After learning from Hanratty that his father is dead, Abagnale Jr., wants everything to stop, realizing that he now has no one left to run to. Ziobro’s heartfelt performance of “Goodbye” brought the right amount of emotion that was needed to connect everything that had happened to Abagnale Jr., and put it all onstage.

The show ended with a new relationship similar to the Abagnale’s; however, this time it is between Hanratty and Abagnale Jr. The two each tell their story about the way things end after Abagnale Jr., is released from prison with the final song of the show, “Strange But True.” The cast then gathered to close the show by singing the final verses, with a special appearance from above by the deceased Frank Abagnale Sr. Then, Abagnale Jr., brought the show to a close by running up the stairs to exit the theater as his last “goodbye” and a way of moving forward.

Although the musical did not do well on Broadway, Rider’s production was the complete opposite, showing that the cast and crew spent an immense amount of time putting the show together to make it the spectacle that it was. As the song says, “If you want to make it, make it up.”

 

Published in the 12/2/15 edition

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