Thursday, November 18, 2010

CASTING: Catch Me If You Can and The Book of Mormon

Recently, two of the season's most anticipated musicals announced initial casting.  One has a seasoned cast that has already done the show in an out of town tryout, the other is starting fresh (though I'm not sure who, if anyone might have workshopped it previously).  I am speaking of Catch Me If You Can and The Book of Mormon, respectively.

All of the principals from the 2009 Seattle engagement of Catch Me If You Can are back, and this should please fans of Broadway musicals.  I know it pleases me!  Let's just hope that expectations are not blown so out of proportion that we have another Women on the Verge situation.  Leading the cast are Aaron Tveit and Norbert Leo Butz.  Tveit, of course, made a name for himself as Gabe in next to normal, and as Link Larkin in Hairspray, as well as for playing Fiyero in Wicked; he'll be playing Frank Abagnale, Jr. a real life con artist.  Tony-winner Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the original Fiyero in Wicked), plays FBI agent Carl Hanratty, who chases Abagnale down for years.  The famous film version had Leonard DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in those roles, respectively.

Production Photos from the 2009 Seattle Production
(TOP: Tveit; Butz and Wopat; Butler)

Major supporting roles are being filled by really big Broadway talent, any one of whom can and have carried a whole show.  Kerry Butler (Hairspray, Xanadu), Tom Wopat (Sondheim on Sondheim, Chicago, A Catered Affair), Rachel de Benedet (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Addams Family), Linda Hart (Hairspray, Anything Goes) and Nick Wyman (A Tale of Two Cities, president, Actor's Equity).  As you can see, most of these folks also bring to the table experience with the creative team (something missing from other "high profile/high expectation" companies).  Most have either worked with director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, the team that brought Hairspray and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels successfully to the stage, or they have experience with Hairspray's writers, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have written Catch Me's score.

Aaron Tveit and Company (2009)

The Catch Me If You Can ensemble will include actors/singers/dancers both seasoned and new:  Joe Cassidy (DRS, 1776), Timothy McCuen Piggee (debut), Brandon Wardell (Good Vibrations, Thoroughly Modern Millie), Jennifer Frankel (Curtains, Spamalot, Chicago), Lisa Gajda (Elf, Cry-Baby, Spamalot), Bob Gaynor (Sweet Charity, Taboo), Kearran Giovanni (Finian's Rainbow, Tarzan), Nick Kenkel (Legally Blonde), Grasan Kingsberry (Finian's Rainbow, DRS), Aleks Pevec (debut), Kristin Piro (debut), Rachelle Rak (Fosse, DRS), Joe Aaron Reid (Finian's Rainbow, Chicago), Angie Schworer (The Producers, Sunset Boulevard), Sabrina Sloan (debut), Sarrah Strimel (The Producers, Young Frankenstein) and Katie Webber (Memphis, Rock of Ages, Wicked).

The completely-from-scratch musical, The Book of Mormon, is being brought together with Broadway debutantes Trey Parker and Matt Stone (above, book, music and lyrics) of South Park fame, as well as Broadway experience, with a book and score by co-writer Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), and direction/choreography by Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone, Elf: The Musical).  This irreverent and very adult musical tells the story of two young Mormons on their mission as they try to bring their religious beliefs to a group of unsuspecting and unwilling Africans.  Mayhem, I am sure, will ensue.

Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad

The casting, which is still "initial," meaning that there are some roles yet to be cast, has been revealed, and it shows a bright mixture of young Broadway talent, not unlike its creative team.  Leading the company will be Josh Gad (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Andrew Rannells (Jersey Boys, Hairspray).  Also featured will be Nikki M. James (All Shook Up, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), Rory O’Malley (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Michael Potts (Grey Gardens, Lennon).

Michael Potts and Nikki M. James

The Book of Mormon ensemble will include: Scott Barnhardt (Big River), Justin Bohon (9 to 5, Miss Saigon, Oklahoma!),  Darlesia Cearcy (The Color Purple, The Goodbye Girl), Kevin Duda (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), Asmeret Ghebremichael (Legally Blonde, Spamalot, Elf: The Musical), Brian Tyree Henry (Fiddler on the Roof), John Eric Parker (Memphis, RENT), Jason Michael Snow (South Pacific), Benjamin Schrader (Ragtime, Avenue Q), Michael James Scott (Elf: The Musical, Hair, Tarzan), Brian Sears (Lend Me a Tenor, Finian's Rainbow), Lawrence Stallings (Hair, Passing Strange), Rema Webb (The Lion King), Maia Nkenge Wilson (9 to 5, The Color Purple, RENT) and Tommar Wilson (Hair, Hairspray, Never Gonna Dance).

With a great mixture of experience and youthful freshness, both shows have the potential to be huge.  And in a season where shows with star power don't guarantee box office or critical success, how these two fare will be interesting to watch.  Either way, I cannot wait to see them both.  Here's to both being a huge success!

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