The musical Catch Me If You Can, performing at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis December 11-16, is the amazing true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr: a man who ran away from home when he was 16 years old and committed millions of dollars worth of fraud to survive. He pretended to be a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer; all before he was 18. The creators ofCatch Me If You Can – Marc Shaiman (music, lyrics, and orchestrations), Scott Rittman (lyrics), and Jack O’Brien (Director) to name a few – excluding the writer of the book Terrence McNally, also created the musical Hairspray. There is an obvious resemblance between the two throughout the show. Catch Me If You Can takes place in the 60’s, features a big band style pit (in this case located on stage), a dramatic belt song from a woman character representing a moral dilemma as the third to last song (“Fly, Fly Away”), and contains songs with a modern pop feel to them – all characteristics of Hairspray. Unfortunately,Catch Me If You Can is nowhere near as good as Hairspray.
All the performers are very talented. Stephen Anthony (Frank Abagnale, Jr.) has a wonderful (though noticeably worn out) voice and acting and dancing skills to match. He gives a believable round performance of a boy changing to a man, and is very enjoyable to watch. Merritt David Janes (Agent Carl Hanratty), though not as good as the original Hanratty on Broadway played by Norbert Leo Butz, has a beautiful, versatile voice that is showcased in the well-received song “Don’t Break the Rules”. Other notable performances are those of Dominic Fortuna (Frank Abagnale Sr.), Aubrey Mae Davis (Brenda – Frank’s fiancée), and Amy Burgmaier (Carol Strong – Brenda’s mom).
What is not so successful is the production. To begin, the lyrics are cheesy. It sounds as though they were written by a teenager writing his first musical. The music is phenomenal but what is sung doesn’t do the music or the story justice. Secondly, a big screen hangs behind the band on stage that features different animations throughout the show. Though it serves its purpose to guide the audience through the show, helping them understand the location of a scene or the time period, the animation is very tacky; especially during the opening number of act two, “Doctor’s Orders”. The sexy nurses are dancing on operating tables when all the sudden the hospital hallway animation on the screen turns into the outline of a woman dancing with fake fire around her, making an unimpressive number even worse.
After making a musical as successful and well-liked as Hairspray and then moving on to a very similar show with one of the major differences being that its songs weren’t as good, it’s no wonder why Catch Me If You Can wasn’t as successful on Broadway. If you are interested in seeing a musical with lots of talent, chorus numbers, and slutty chorus girls, this is the show for you. But if you are looking for a show with all of this and a more impressive book and lyrics, wait until Spamalot comes to Minneapolis March 15 and 16.