The old-fashioned musical has returned with a toe-tapping, high-kicking vengeance. First, that perennial favorite Anything Goes is back on the boards with the indefatigable Sutton Foster as the nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. In addition, the brand-new musical Catch Me If You Can, adapted from the true-life story of a teenage con artist in the 1960s, is currently having its Broadway debut.
Here, a quick-fire guide to the ways in which the two engrossing shows are both wholly alike and wildly different:
1) A Little Production Number Never Hurt No One The intimate musical is plenty stunning in the right hands. Still, for sheer raucous, crowd-pleasing potential, there is no experience like a full-bore chorus of singing and dancing actors. In Anything Goes, a gaggle of tap-dancing sailors and ladies rip effortlessly through the Cole Porter score; in Catch Me If You Can, the young con man character at the story's center (played by the talented Aaron Tveit) is flanked by some of the most stunning -- and leggiest -- chorines the Broadway stage has seen in what seems like an eon.
2) A Score to Settle Anything Goes is loaded to bursting with Cole Porter standards like 'I Get a Kick Out of You,' 'You're the Top,' and 'All Through the Night.' As such, the audience is predisposed to being swept away by the score. Fair enough. But the cast transcends even the highest audience expectations. With Catch Me If You Can, the songs are new, but their lineage is old. The score, from Hairspray writers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, is a contemporary take on songs from the halcyon days of musical theater. It may not be perfect, but most of the numbers are glorious.
3) Pomp and Substance Corny jokes, mistaken identity, a cast of characters stuck on a ship: Anything Goes is fluff, and this production knows it. Frivolity goes down easily, which is fine by us and, by the looks of the grinning faces around us during the show, the audience is content with it, too. Catch Me If You Can, on the other hand, pulls a sleight of hand much like its central figure, Frank Abagnale Jr, does with his grifts. The show teems with eye candy and quick wit. Nonetheless, at its core, the show deftly tackles the complicated nature of the relationship between fathers and sons. We'll say it: the musical outstrips the tepid Spielberg movie at its own stylized game. One fine example is Norbert Leo Butz as the F.B.I. agent trailing Abagnale's moves. Look, Tom Hanks! A real actor embodying the role you once played!