Thursday, September 27, 2012

Club Swing – Where the Music’s Hot and the Legend Lives Forever

The Boldt Arts Alive! Series gets underway Thursday, October 4 for the 2012/13 Season with a Big Band bang featuring Five By Design's Club Swing. It’s a flashback to the days of legendary landmarks like The Stork Club and The Copa, following the rise and fall of the Big Band Era from 1937 to 1955. With period costumes and velvet vocals, it’s like the cast stepped right out of The Cocoanut Grove.

Many people in the audience will remember hearing hits like “Cocktails for Two,” “Mona Lisa” and “Sing, Sing, Sing” from their younger years, but if you didn’t grow up with the music, how can you be sure you’ll enjoy Club Swing?

Well, there’s a reason the music lives on! If you have enjoyed the music of In the Mood and The Glenn Miller Orchestra or the nostalgia of Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s South Pacific or Million Dollar Quartet, you’ll love Five By Design’s Club Swing.

With tickets starting at just $20, take a trip back in time with Five By Design’s Club Swing — where the music’s hot, the drinks are cool and the legend lives forever.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Take a Music Break with Five By Design’s Club Swing!

Are you a fan of the Big Band Era? 

Whether you danced to the songs in their heyday or you just love the Big Band sound, you’ll love Five by Design’s Club Swing at the Fox CitiesPerforming Arts Center October 4.

The doors are about to close on Hotel Crosby, a venue inspired by legendary landmarks like The Stork Club, The Copa and The Cocoanut Grove. But even as the lights go down, you’ll enjoy music from the rise and fall of an era. Hear for yourself why music like "In the Mood," “Cocktails for Two,” “Mona Lisa” and the unforgettable “Sing, Sing, Sing” will live on forever!

Great seats are still available! Call the Fox Cities P.A.C. ticket office at (920) 730-3760 or purchase your seats at!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Too Good to be True!" at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Does this photo of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons look a little familiar? 

Just fourteen months ago, the national tour of the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys stopped at the Fox Cities P.A.C. to share the story of this group’s rise to fame and fortune with all the bumps along the way. 

If you loved Jersey Boys at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, be sure you have a ticket for Sunday’s concert featuring the group that started it all, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It’s simply, “too good to be true.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Frank Abagnale Jr.: The Real Story Behind Catch Me If You Can

Did you know that one of the Center's splashy new Broadway titles is based on a true story? 

No, Santa fans, we're not talking about Elf the Musical. We're talking about Catch Me If You Can playing December 18-23 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. With snappy music and sixties costumes, it's a big-hearted musical based on a real-life tale of being young, in love, and in deep, deep trouble.

Frank Abagnale Jr. is an expert on fraud, scams, deception and beating the system. Between the ages of 16 and 21, he forged and cashed $2.5 million worth of bad checks in the United States and 26 other countries, while successfully passing himself off as an airline pilot for Pan Am, a doctor, a college professor and a lawyer. He was ultimately caught, as he always knew he would be, and served time in French, Swedish and American prisons.

Abagnale’s adventures were immortalized, and somewhat fictionalized, in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film "Catch Me If You Can," with Leonardo DiCaprio starring as the young con man and Tom Hanks playing the FBI agent who pursued him. The movie, based on a ghost-written autobiography, inspired a 2011 Broadway musical of the same name – score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, book by Terrence McNally, direction by Jack O’Brien and choreography by Jerry Mitchell – which is now touring the country.
It’s easy to understand why great storytellers have been attracted to this period in Abagnale’s life. His capers were colorful, improbable, glamorous, ingenious and exciting. With each chase, with each con, there was also the element of suspense: Would he get away with it? How would he get away with it? It’s a tale that practically begged to be told on screen and onstage.

Abagnale’s life on the lam is the most entertaining part of his story – but it’s not the best part of his story. It may not even be the most remarkable part of his story. What Abagnale has done since leaving behind his life of crime is both mind-boggling and inspiring. He has used his knowledge as a counterfeiter and scam artist to stop criminals and protect law-abiding citizens, initially working with the FBI – which was part of his parole agreement – and then by developing a host of fraud prevention programs that are used by more than 14,000 financial institutions, corporations and law enforcement agencies. “Those are the amazing things to me about my life,” he says, “not what I did so many years ago.”
He didn’t set out to be a con artist when he ran away from home to New York City following his parents’ divorce. “It started out as survival,” he says. “I was 16 and tried to get jobs working in a store, like a delivery boy, and I realized they weren’t going to pay me anything. I knew I looked older, and I thought that if I lied about my age, if people thought I was ten years older, they’d pay me more.”

But as the film and musical indicate, Abagnale was resourceful and very smart, and he began to figure out ways – none of them legal – to make great sums of money, more than he ever dreamed. “I’ve always said that the two reasons for my success were that I was very creative and very observant,” he says. “I saw things that no one paid attention to. I was able to look at things and figure out ways around them. I think I got away with a lot of things because I was an adolescent; I had no fear of being caught. And like most adolescents, I
wasn’t thinking about the consequences.”

He didn’t have nearly as much fun as the Frank Abagnale of stage and screen. “It’s a very lonely life,” he says. “Everyone you meet thinks you’re somebody else. I couldn’t confide in anybody. I was this teenage boy out on his own, and I cried myself to sleep many nights. Everyone I associated with thought I was their peer, but they were ten years older than I. So I was constantly having to act like an adult.

“I was also being chased, and I knew I had to stay one step ahead,” he continues. “At one point it became a game between me and the FBI agent as to who was going to outsmart who. But you grow up and mature and you realize you don’t want to live the rest of your life like that. I always knew I’d get caught: I didn’t have it in me to give myself up, but I knew it was a matter of time before they would catch up with me. And there’s great relief when you’re caught because it’s over. When I look back on my life, even knowing where it has brought me, I would never want to have to live that over again.”

Abagnale was 21 years old and living under an assumed name in France when the French police caught him and imprisoned him for six months under horrific conditions. He then spent six months in a Swedish jail, and was subsequently deported to the United States. Before American authorities could take him into custody he ran away again, escaping through the service area of the plane – not by disemboweling a plane’s toilet, as in the movie. “I was desperate, but not that desperate,” he says. He was desperate because he was terrified. “I
thought I might go to prison for 20 years or for the rest of my life. Having experienced prison, I got very scared, and that’s why I tried to escape. I had no idea whether American prisons were like French prisons.”
He was eventually caught and sentenced to 12 years in jail. But after four years he was paroled, on the condition that he would use his expertise teaching and working undercover for the FBI. “I didn’t come out of prison saying, ‘I’m a changed person, I will never do this again,’” he says. “The truth is that this was a way to get my freedom. I didn’t know what I would do, or whether I would go straight.”

It was during one of his undercover assignments that Abagnale met Kelly, the woman who would become his wife. “She was working on her master’s degree, writing a paper and doing an internship at this institution where I was undercover,” he says. “I met her under this phony name, and started dating her. On my last day, I took her to the park and said, ‘I would really like to continue to see you, but I have to explain that I’m not this person, this is not what I do for a living. I work for the government and I’ve been here on assignment.’ I broke protocol, which you’re never supposed to do. But she listened to me, and she literally changed my life.
She believed in me, she had faith in me, and she married me against the wishes of her parents, who eventually came to love me. She saw something in me that other people probably never saw. She gave me three beautiful children. I am who I am and I am and where I am because of the love of a woman, and the respect three sons have for their father. “

With Kelly in his life, Abagnale’s redemption truly began. When his obligation to the FBI was
completed, he was asked to remain on. “I didn’t want to stay on as an employee of the government, because there were things I wanted to do that I’d be restricted from doing, like writing books and educating people about crime,” he says. “I also had a lot of technology ideas that I wanted to develop, but I knew that if I did them while working for the government, the technology would become government property.” So he became a contract employee, working as a consultant and teaching at the FBI Academy – where one of his students was
his oldest son, now an FBI agent.

Abagnale works with the FBI to this day, and became lifelong friends with the agent who relentlessly pursued him, Joseph Shea – known as Carl Hanratty in the movie and the musical – who died in 2005. He has his own business, Abagnale & Associates, a security consulting firm, and is considered to be a leading authority in the field. He is a dynamic, much sought-after lecturer, and a self-made millionaire – legitimately. Just as surprising, he serves on the advisory board of Wild Wings International, the philanthropic organization of
former Pan Am flight attendants. “Who would have dreamed that?” he says. “Only in America could something like this happen.”

Yet he lives with his past everyday. And although three presidents have offered to pardon him, he has turned them down. “I respectfully declined,” he says, “because I truly believe that a piece of paper cannot excuse my actions. I don’t think it works that way. I made some mistakes in my life and I have to live with them. I know people are fascinated by what I did between the ages of 16 and 21. But what amazes me is where my life went when I came out of prison. I try to do the right thing, and I hope that in the end I’ll be judged for that.”

Tickets are on sale now for Catch Me If You Can.
Visit for details!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seeing Blue at the Fox Cities P.A.C.

No one knows how to make a more inspired mess than Blue Man Group. Whether they’re beating on drums and generating a kaleidoscopic spray of airborne paint, or catching flying gumballs with their mouths and spewing the paint onto canvases, or feasting on Twinkies, or chomping out a Cap’n Crunch symphony, the bald-and-blue characters approach each messy, noisy enterprise with the expertise and determination of children. And the audience responds with unadulterated, uncomplicated, grin-inducing joy; with howls of laughter and childlike wonder and delight. You might say that Blue Man Group is child’s play for adults.

At first glance, the stage may look like a mess. But looking closer, it’s far from one. Don’t confuse child’s play with childishness.

“We have things that we think about, and they express themselves in these weird ways,” says Phil Stanton, co-founder of Blue Man Group with Matt Goldman and Chris Wink. “A lot of what we do is colorful, and kids enjoy it, and adults are entertained by it, whether they get the idea behind it or not. We’re usually looking at things from the point of community or relationships. We’re trying to say something about the power of a group. That’s why there are three Blue Men; three is the smallest number that makes up a group.”

Goldman adds, “Preserving a childlike wonder is definitely one of the things behind what we do. We believe that we’re all creative beings, and creativity can look a lot of different ways. We’re trying to get to an ecstatic, euphoric, emotional place. We surf many different interests – science and art and music and spectacle and reading and math and technology. Why can’t people be fascinated and entertained by all of these things?”

At a Blue Man Group theatrical show there is, indeed, something on the bill to fascinate and entertain everyone. It’s vaudeville for the twenty-first century: instead of an array of comedians and singers and monologists and dog acts and jugglers sharing a bill, the Blue Men – abetted by a few musicians – offer an array of wildly imaginative flights of fancy, ranging from primitive to sophisticated, in a variety show quite unlike any other.

“We have so many different influences,” says Stanton. “Vaudeville, of course. The Marx Brothers. Buster Keaton. Punk rock. Kodo drummers. Butoh dance. Ultraman, who was a Japanese super hero. It’s all somewhere deep in our DNA.”

Says Goldman, “I don’t like to name influences because the list is too vast. Our influences are almost everything we’ve ever been exposed to. Bugs Bunny is just as big an influence on me as the Marx Brothers.”
The Blue Man is a combination of hero and trickster, clown and scientist, innocent and super hero. When speaking about their creation, Goldman and Stanton sometimes refer to him as a singular being, and sometimes refer to him in the plural. 

“For metaphor purposes, we often talk about them as ‘three as one,’” says Stanton. “But they’re actually different. We try to create character differences, and sometimes that’s what leads to the comedy. In the scene with the gumballs and marshmallows, they’re three very distinct characters. There’s the one that catches the marshmallows; he seems kind of nervous, like he’s not sure it’s going right. The guy that’s catching the gumballs seems more confident, like he’s got some kind of prowess and knows that the outcome will be good. And then you’ve got the guy in the center, who’s a little bit of a trickster. He’s not telling either one of them everything; he’s got a few secrets up his sleeve. So there sometimes is a difference in the characters – and sometimes there isn’t.” 

Goldman adds, “A lot of people think that being bald and blue is putting on a mask of sorts. We consider it the opposite, that we’re taking off the mask. Once you strip away the hair, the skin tone, the gender, the ears, and have no particular style of clothing, what’s left? It’s really the rawest, purest form of what’s essentially human. We’ve found that for the first third or first half of the show, audiences think they’re looking at these very strange, unusual beings. But somewhere in there – and I see this over and over – it suddenly dawns on them that they’re actually watching themselves. And then the question becomes – and I go back and forth on this myself – are we watching three different beings with three different personalities, or are we watching one being that’s been split into three? I like to live in the ambiguity of it.”

The Blue Man uses every facet of his being to engage the audience in situations and ideas and behavior and sights and sounds that intrigue him. And he does so without ever speaking.

“Talking is so limiting,” says Goldman. “We talked once, and it was painful. It was horrible. But we don’t think of the Blue Man as a mute. We think of him as someone who has chosen not to say anything.”
The show is not without words. LED screens display a series of messages designed to make the audience laugh and think. An authoritative, other-worldly voice wittily explains the intricacies of modern plumbing and choreography and technology. But more often than not, words are unnecessary. When the Blue Men are playing their unique polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, pipes – instruments of their own making – or fiercely pounding on drums, words would just intrude on the giddiness being felt throughout the theater.
But even when the audience is in a heightened state of exhilaration, the Blue Men are often teaching them something – even if the audience is unaware of it. Take, for instance, one of their most famous pieces, beating paint-covered drums, which never fail to rev up the crowd. What audiences likely aren’t aware of is that they’re being given a lesson in synesthesia, a mixing of the senses. The great choreographer George Balanchine was famous for saying, “See the music and hear the dancing.” That’s synesthesia. So is seeing the sounds of the drums and feeling the colors of the paint.

“The paint on the drums for us is a visual representation of the music,” says Puck Quinn, creative director of character development and appearances. “We want to create a visceral experience. We want you to feel it in your gut. That’s why we have as big a drum as we can find. Because that drum will literally vibrate your viscera, your guts will resonate.” 

Connecting to the audience and creating a community within the walls of the theater is what matters most to Blue Man Group.

“The relationship with the audience is everything,” says Goldman. “Because at the end of the day, the Blue Man is really just trying to connect. He knows, whether intellectually or on a gut level, that in order to get to that ecstatic, heightened moment, he’s got to connect with these strangers. That’s why the Blue Man is so respectful of the audience. That’s why he wants to gain their trust. It’s all about the connection.”

People sitting in the front rows immediately feel a part of the proceedings, as they are given slickers to protect their clothes from paint and other possible splatterings. The Blue Men also make an enormous amount of eye contact with the audience, both from the stage and by interacting with them. Most famously, a woman from the audience is chosen to join them onstage for "The Feast," and share in a repast of Twinkies. What follows is spontaneous – as is the selection of the woman.

“The choice is made completely in the moment,” says Stanton. “You can kind of tell that the woman has suspended her disbelief, that she really buys into the character and is reacting to him. When we go into the audience and look into someone’s eyes, and we see both joy and a little fear, it means she’s not hiding, she’s not guarding herself. That’s what we’re looking for. It’s intangible. We want somebody who’s going to be really lively and free to react to things in real time. We don’t want someone who’s going to go up there and try to act.” 

For Goldman, Stanton and Wink, the entire show is a build up to the breathtaking finale, which unites the audience in a magical way.

“It’s all about the connection,” says Stanton. “And we also wanted to make a statement about how important the live experience is. Even though technology has made it so that we don’t have to have that live experience, there’s something about our humanity that will always need it.”

Be part of the live experience with Blue Man Group October 9-14 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale now at

© 2010 Blue Man Group