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July 15, 2011

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Broadway in Bryant Park recap: ‘Chicago’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’

by Jesse North

After a ho-hum kickoff, the Broadway in Bryant Park concert series returned Thursday to its second week with a roar. Big Broadway players like Chicago and Catch Me If You Can showed up with their lead actors and off-Broadway fare like Million Dollar Quartet (new to the “off” title) and NEWSical proved strong.

First up were the guys (and gal) from Million Dollar Quartet, which is readying for its off-Broadway bow at the end of the month at New World Stages (it’s transferring from Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre). Much like Baby It’s You!, this weak show plays the Bryant Park venue fierce as a concert-style performance. Leave the story at home—bring in the hits. Their set list was similar to last year’s, but Robert Britton Lyons bring focus as Carl Perkins and Eddie Clendening is still right on as Elvis Presley. At six songs, their set list could have been cut by two, and they sadly did not perform their signature Britton-Lyons-stands-on-the-bass closing pose this year. Lazy musicians.

The old stalwart Chicago took the stage next, and felt anything but old this year. This was large in part due to Christopher Sieber, one of Broadway’s most reliable leads, bringing his charisma and rubbery face to the stage as Billy Flynn. He led the cast in “We Both Reached For The Gun,” which played great, visually, due to the marionette-like choreography. Melissa Rae Mahon, who was featured in Stage Rush’s Chicago episode of Ensemble Watch, played the part of Roxie alongside Sieber, and delivered her character’s title number with delicious sass.

VIDEO: Christopher Sieber sings “We Both Reached For The Gun” from Chicago

Bringing more of a comedy sketch to the concert than a musical set, NEWSical got the crowd laughing and the most engaged out of any act. The off-Broadway show, which uses current events as the subjects of its production numbers, served up a great skit in which Christina Bianco and Christine Pedi play Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli, respectively. The two singers—hilariously embodied by these actresses—discuss that in order to be a successful diva, a performer needs the gay community on her side. Bianco returned as another pop songstress, this time Christina Aguilera, performing a completely incorrect rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which hearkened to Aguilera’s flubbed performance at this year’s Super Bowl.

Catch Me If You Can closed the concert, and proved to be everything that a Broadway in Bryant Park performance should be. Leads Aaron Tveit and Kerry Butler were present (Norbert Leo Butz was a no show, but that would have made for a crowded set list—nothing missed here). The set kicked off with Tveit (pronounced “Tru-vat” by 106.7 Lite FM DJ and host Delilah) accompanied by the Catch Me showgirls performing a lively “Jet Set.” Then came the moment I had been waiting for—the highlight of this entire season of Broadway in Bryant Park concerts—Butler took the stage for her earth-shattering solo, “Fly Fly Away.” Beginning sweetly and growing healthily in emotion, Butler carried the Bryant Park crowd along with her crystal clear vocals to the song’s rousing crescendo of a finale. I swear, Butler didn’t even need a microphone to reach the back of the crowded park. It was such a powerhouse rendition that I will not be able to shake it for quite some time. The red-hot Catch Me set concluded with Tveit singing “Goodbye,” which was a worthy accompaniment to Butler’s perfect solo.

VIDEO: Kerry Butler sings “Fly Fly Away” from Catch Me If You Can

Set list:

Million Dollar Quartet
“Blue Suede Shoes”
“Folsom Prison Blues”
“I Hear You Knocking”
“Hound Dog”
“Great Balls of Fire”
“See You Later Alligator”

Chicago
“We Both Reached For The Gun”
“Roxie”
“All That Jazz”

NEWSical
“Without The Gays”
Infomercial song
“I Need You Oprah”
Christina Aguilera’s National Anthem

Catch Me If You Can
“Jet Set”
“Fly Fly Away”
“Goodbye”

Perhaps one of the strongest Broadway in Bryant Park concerts I have ever seen, this is sure to be the week to beat this season. Next week’s roster has the casts of The Addams Family, Billy Elliot, Memphis, Rock of Ages, and Voca People performing. Was your world rocked by Kerry Butler, Rushers? Did you find it refreshing to finally see some leads performing in Bryant Park? Leave your thoughts and “Fly Fly Away” hysteria in the comments below!

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 15 2011

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention Oprahoma! SO FUNNY. I’m definitely now really psyched to see NEWsical, when before I had no idea what the show was about and no interest in finding out.

    Christopher Sieber was amazing and adorable in “We Both Reached For the Gun”, and I am *always* a huge fan of his Broadway performances. Future piece, perhaps? hehe.

    But Kerry Butler’s “Fly, Fly Away” was so incredibly amazing and moving. I have not been able to get it out of my head and I am so glad that Stage Rush caught the moment and it is now available for me to rewatch 5 million times.

    Reply
  2. Jul 15 2011

    Great recap. Chicago is always so much fun. I wasn’t that impressed w/ the Catch Me If You Can – Kerry Butler is solid and likeable, but there’s nothing extraordinary about her. I saw the first incarnation of Newsical about 5 years ago or more – it was painful.

    Reply
    • Jul 16 2011

      Sarah, I’m very surprised you don’t think Kerry Butler’s voice is extraordinary! After hearing those vocals in the video, how could you not?

      Reply

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