Based on the film
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman
Directed by Jack O’ Brien
Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
produced by Broadway in Chicago
At the Palace Theatre, Chicago
Over produced musical version of the terrific film only mildly entertaining
The decision to make a musical out of the film, Catch Me If You Can, that stared Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, was based on using the premise of making it a 60’s style TV variety show titled: “The Frank Abgnale, Jr. Show” using the name of the actual teen con man who posed as a co-pilot, doctor and lawyer forging checks, ID’s and diplomas. With an on-stage orchestra and a leggy chorus of boys and girls and many show-stopping classic Broadway-styled numbers, this bio-musical tries too hard to please. This hybrid has tone problems due to trying to blend two styles – a slick Broadway variety show with a “caper” plot that finds the straight-arrow FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Merritt Davis Janes) on Frank’s trail. The show takes place all in Frank’s head as he remembers his past in terms of a variety TV musical.
This concept diminishes the cleverness of Frank’s cons while trivializing the FBI as a gang of Keystone Cops. Things get confused when all the terrific show-stopping song and dance numbers interrupt our appreciation of Frank’s conning skills. The show could use more examples of how Frank was able to pass himself off as a co-pilot , doctor and lawyer. We see him more as a womanizer that con man.
The best part of this musical was in the fine jazzy, swinging-sixties score by Marc Shaiman played with enthusiasm by the on-stage orchestra. As a non-Equity tour, this one was a tad better than most but you’d think for a top ticket price of $85 they’d find performers who could sing? The voices in this tour were much below what can be heard around Chicago from our non-Equity players in storefront theatres. I was particularly disappointed with Stephan Anthony, the just-out-of-college, baby-faced player who has the charm and charisma to be the young Frank Abagnale, Jr. but Anthony utilized his voice in that awful Broadway pop style singing that sounds uneven at best. Why not cast terrific singers in a musical where Frank, his FBI pursuer, his father and his fiance each have songs? I’m betting there are Equity performers who can act, have the image, and can sing the heck out of the songs that could be cast if the touring producers wouldn’t be so greedy.
Too bad the tension of the chase between the FBI and Frank diminished by being interrupted by the songs. Catch Me If You Can tries to have it both ways and it works much better as a pure musical than as a dramatic caper show. Stronger voices and a smoother transitions would help. But fans of classic Broadway musicals may enjoy this show.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 3,2012
For more info checkout the Catch Me If You Can page at theatreinchicago.com, Tickets $18 0 $85, running time is 2 hours, 35 minutes with intermission, through April 14, 2013