Many of us know the story of Frank Abagnale Jr. A young teen who comes to be one of the most notorious and alluding con artist of the 20th century who turned his life around with the help of the FBI agent, Carl Hanratty, and now is one of the foremost authorities on fraud and embezzlement. This harrowing true story all unfolded on the screen with the 2002 hit, ‘Catch Me If You Can’.
But what about a little bit of a tune to give this story a little, pizzazz? Enter down stage center Terrence McNally writing a book for the stage based on Frank’s autobiography with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Witman and Shaiman. Let’s not forget the pilot of the show, its director, Jack O’Brien, bringing the silver screen aspect of the film to life for you, the passengers.
Setting you up for an exhilarating trip around the world, “Catch Me” takes a lot of artistic license from the get go with ‘Live in Living Color’ as we start he show from Frank being apprehended and joking to Hanratty that he could do a “show”. Taking you through Frank’s psyche of life, we see and hear from his childhood with his father and mom to making his first million the easy way with songs like his mantra ‘Butter Outta Cream’ or his fly boy style in ‘Jet Set’. All the while being reminded by Hanratty, ‘Don’t Break the Rules’, because crime doesn’t pay as evident in ‘Good-Bye’.
O’Brien and his team have done an excellent job of bringing “Catch Me” to the stage. “Catch Me” takes all the major points from the film and the autobiography and does an excellent job of giving them the emotional connection through the music and lyrics. Even the placement of the orchestra on stage, in a big band fashion, lends to the illusion of stepping back in time to when this all took place, driving the roller coaster of a ride we go through.
Yet you have to give a lot of the credit to this national touring cast, some of whom are on their first tour. And if this is just their first time touring then we are in for some wonderful theater over the next couple years.
Frank leads the cast, portrayed by Stephen Anthony, from his pilot, doctor, lawyer, youthful persona that he has. Stephan may be fairly new to the stage but his presence is old soul Broadway. Helping him throughout the chase is the ever persistent Hanratty, played by Merritt David Janes. Merritt brings his own style to the role, very different from what we have seen on screen but embodies the frustration and admiration Hanratty had for Frank. Fill in with a fantastic supporting group of players such as Dominic Fortuna as Frank Sr., Caitlin Maloney as Paula, Aubrey Mae Davis as Brenda or the astounding ensemble players who don multiple roles throughout the evening’s festivities, and you have the makings of a grand time. Bravo.
This show has a lot of positives going its way and boggles me as to why it didn’t last longer on Broadway. The set design was simple and effective, as I mentioned the staging of the orchestra or base scene settings. If anything can be pulled out and picked apart it would be the costuming and some lyrical choices. Now overall a very well done and dressed show but a few choice ideas don’t translate well for every person performing in the show. In some cases it distracts the focus of the overall picture presented. The lyrics seemed to be a little stretch of the brain to link stanzas together. It is if riding on the shirt tails of their previous hit collaboration, “Hairspray”, Shaiman and Witman were just throwing around words or phrases of the time to just get it done. Luckily the music itself drives in its rhythms to help pull off the show.
“Catch Me If You Can” is a romping flight of truthful fun. As easy as it is to think that such a story is made up, it is remarkable that it is true and has been brought to the musically inclined. It lifts you up with fun songs, ‘The Pinstripes Are All That They See’ to the heartfelt ‘Fly Fly, Away’ and reminds you that no matter who you are and what stories we read or hear you can rest assure this story is ‘Strange But True’.
So grab your bags and go see “Catch Me If You Can” quickly as the tour ends here in the OC, on Sunday June 30th.
As I do with my reviews, a little life imitating art if you will. Frank’s story is truly stranger than fiction as he conned nearly $2 million from banks, Pan Am, and who knows how many others. That’s not even the crazy part. It was his ability to hold the ‘lie’ for so long. I am not praising his masquerading but rather the confidence in what he learned that propelled him in his future. You see I know many people who can give great advice but when it comes to them, they forget, works both ways. It is when we can step back look at our goals and drive through the adversity that we grow and reach for the blue sky aspect of life. Don’t sit back and let life pass you by. Stand up, get out, head up and go for it. If you don’t build that confidence to try you will just keep watching from the gate, however if you do try, your destination could be the most special and memorable trip in the world. Keep flying.
See “Catch Me If You Can: The Musical” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts June 25, 2013 – June 30, 2013.
Follow my adventures in entertainment in Southern California on Twitter @SCThrillsMarc.