At the Academy of Music for a limited run is the First National Tour of Catch Me If you Can. Nominated for four Tony Awards and six Drama Desk Awards, the musical is based on the true life story of Frank Abagnale Jr., who before the age of 21 was a notorious counterfeiter and con artist passing himself off as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer. Abagnale’s ghost written autobiography was a New York Times bestseller which Steven Spielberg turned into the film by the same name in 2002.
With a book by Terrence McNally, swinging sixties music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman this cat and mouse adventure pits FBI agent Carl Hanratty against a teenage runaway on a crime spree with a backdrop of exploding projections and gyrating chorus girls.
Act I starts off as “The Frank Abagnale Show” with the lead character telling the story of his life directly to the audience – and the first five numbers are Frank Jr. and Company in high camp “show mode”. Unfortunately, this presentational style does not engage us as an audience. With very distracting moving projections behind all of the action and skimpily dressed ensemble members shaking their lovely booty it’s difficult to focus on the story. As we near the end of the first act we start to be drawn into the plot and are able to feel some pathos for our leading characters. And by and large, the second act is much more compelling as there seems to be more of Mr. McNally (one of our finest playwrights) in it and lessVegas extravaganza.
There is no doubt that Mr. Wittman is a clever lyricist and that Mr. Shaiman writes exciting music. Some musical highlights include, Butter Outta Cream, Live in Living Color, Don’t Be a Stranger and Fly, Fly Away. Also, one of the most authentic moments in the show is the song sung between Hanratty, the FBI Agent and Frank Sr. where they both commiserate about their terrible fathers in Little Boy, Be a Man.
Caitlin Maloney is outstanding as Frank Jr.’s beautiful and aloof mother, and her song, Don’t be a Stranger is a highpoint in the show. So too is Dominic Fortuna as Frank Sr. who possesses both strong vocal and actorial ability. Aubrey Mae Davis is very convincing as the naïve nurse Brenda, who believes that Frank Jr. is not only a doctor and a lawyer, but a Lutheran! D. Scott Withers is spot on as lawyer Roger Strong, Brenda’s tough New Orleans father who is completely bamboozled by Frank Jr. Merritt David Janes is truly ingratiating as the lonely, workaholic Hanratty. And the very young Stephen Anthony as Frank Abagnale, Jr. shows us a terrific tenor voice but needs to communicate the fact that he does what he does out of a great need to be loved and not out of a need to just show us how smart he is.
The costumes by David Ivey Long are eye-popping, kaleidoscopic delights. The set design would be the same if the projection backdrops weren’t in constant motion causing a split focus for the viewer. Should we look at the cool white balls dropping down in sequence or the actors on stage? I’m all for pretty light shows, but the lights are not the show. The lights should be there to make the actors on stage look pretty. But don’t despair, there are plenty of pretty girls in this show and they’re almost in every number. It’s probably one of the hardest working choruses Broadway has seen in a long time.
For tickets call 215-893-1999 or go online at www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway. The first leg of the National Tour continues on to NASHVILLE, TN, January 22-27,2013 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Then on to COLUMBUS, GA, January 28-29,2013 at the River Center for the Performing Arts. And on to LEXINGTON, KY, January 31-February 03,2013 at the Lexington Opera House.
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