Catch Me If You Can
It seems you might be tempting fate if you opened a Broadway musical with the title "Catch Me If You Can." However if your source material is an autobiography that was turned into a high profile film which bore the same title, as the saying goes you have to dance with the girl you brought.
The national tour of the musical "Catch Me If You Can" made its Dallas debut Tuesday night at the Music Hall at Fair Park. The show is surprisingly entertaining and provides some strong performances but, much like an old 33 1/3 vinyl album from the 1960s (the time the show is set in, "Catch Me" struggles with distracting bouts of skipping and jumping.
From the land of truth is stranger than fiction, "Catch Me" is the story of Frank Abagnale Jr. who between the ages of 16 through 21 forged checks totaling over two million dollars, impersonated teachers, a Pan Am Airways pilot, an Atlanta doctor and a Louisiana attorney before being caught, imprisoned and then released only to be hired by the FBI to teach them the skills that put him in prison in the first place.
The story is also about FBI Agent Carl Hanratty who pursued and ultimately caught Frank through his various personas, crimes and geographies.
"Catch Me If You Can" was released as a motion picture in 2002 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks starred as respectively Frank and Carl.
That was also a good year for the Broadway creative team of Director Jack O’Brien, lyricist and composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and Choreographer Jerry Mitchell who all hit pay dirt with the mega smash musical "Hairspray."
In 2011 this same creative team brought "Catch Me If You Can" to Broadway with dramatically different results. The show received mixed reviews and ran for only six months. Norbert Leo Butz won the Tony award for playing Hanratty.
The biggest flaw of "Catch Me" is the show’s structure. The creative team wanted to stamp 1960s! across the entire musical including Frank telling his own story through a television variety show construct: "The Frank Abagnale Jr. Show." There’s an on-stage orchestra, some very leggy singers and dancers and Frank telling his story in small sketches while introducing the musical numbers. The gimmick seems to work for a while but then it disappears, then reappears and becomes as phony as some of Frank’s checks.
Shaiman and Wittman’s songs and lyrics are good but not memorable. The musical styles parallel the story settings and include noir torch songs, Dixieland and Deep South gospel.
Stephen Anthony gives a charmingly effortless performance as Frank. But it’s Aubrey Mae Davis, as Frank’s major love interest, who belts the hell out of the eleven o’clock number "Fly, Fly Away." And it’s Merritt David Janes hound-dog, big-hearted performance as Carl Hanratty that is the real star of the show.
There’s a great musical located somewhere in "Catch Me If You Can" but it’s not this one. You’ll leave the theater liking the show and wanting to hum some tunes. Maybe Frank can come out of retirement and become a Broadway producer and fix this show into the runaway hit it wants to be.