New York City Theater
"Catch Me If You Can"
Neil Simon Theater, Broadway
“Catch Me If You Can” delves into the true-life, check-kiting adventures of Frank Abagnale, Jr. Once a Steven Spielberg film, here the story is framed as a TV variety special. On paper, it must have seem like a good idea.
So Frank’s stint as a Pan Am pilot is enlivened by leggy chorus girls in skimpy stewardesses’ uniforms, while his stint as a doctor is enlivened by leggy chorus girls in skimpy nurses’ uniforms. You get the idea. In between, he plays cat-and-mouse with FBI agent Carl Harnratty who also acts as surrogate father since Frank’s own dad spends his days and nights in bars.
Some big Broadway names go aground. The book is by veteran playwright Terrence McNally, with music by the “Hairspray” team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman. The athletic choreography is by Jerry Mitchell and the director is Jack O’Brien who gave us the brilliant “Coast of Utopia” and “Henry IV,” among so many others.
But it just doesn’t work. Even some good songs -- ”Little Boy, Be a Man,” “Butter Outta Cream,” “The Man Inside the Clues” -- and several fine performances don’t lead us to care very much about the characters. The show’s philosophy of grabbing opportunity as it presents itself (“Act like you’re not afraid and you won’t be”) seems pointless.
The cast is top-notch: As the rumpled Hanratty, Norbert Leo Butz stops the show with “Don’t Break the Rules”; as Frank, Aaron Tveit again proves he’s a smashing leading man: as Frank’s father, Tom Wopat is intriguing as a man with all the wrong dreams; as Frank’s love interest, Kerry Butler is appealing.
But the stage version of “Catch Me If You Can” is an ill-conceived outing. It’s a disappointing voyage to nowhere.
-- David A. Rosenberg
April 15, 2011