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CATCH ME IF YOU CAN Is No Con! It is One Terrific Production
Reviewed by: Russell Goeltenbodt
Chicago’s “Broadway in Chicago’s” 2013 musical theater season is proving to be exciting is creating wonderful theater experiences for Chicago audiences, and visitors to our great city! The following great shows including Book of Mormon, Jekyll & Hyde, Kinky Boots, Les Miserables, Peter Pan and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, to name a few, has not disappointed audiences. Now, Chicago is fortunate to bring Broadway’s touring production of Catch Me If You Can to the Chicago Stage.
Catch Me If You Can, based on the hit Dream Works 2002 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, tells the incredible true story that inspired this high-flying, splashy new Broadway musical. Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. who is a teenager who runs away from a dysfunctional home in search of an identity and a glamorous life. After learning that his beloved parents were parting due to his mother’s infidelity, this smart, self determined, 16 year old, with nothing more than his boyish charm, and initiative, manages to survive on living out his fantasies. Frank Jr., who feels that if he went out on his own to make money to help his father’s failing business, his parents would reunite and everything would go back to the happy home life he treasures. Frank Jr’s. charm and intelligence for survival lead him to talking his way into various careers through forgery of identification, licenses, medical and law degrees, and millions of dollars in forged checks. Through his charm and his deceit, Frank Jr. successfully poses as a major airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer. Frank Jr. manages to connect with various people within these careers, charming his way to getting these jobs. The result of his deception is living the high life and eventually winning the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, Frank Jr’s. lies catch the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty. Carl’s persistence chases Frank Jr. throughout the USA and the world to catch this crook who manages to slip out of Carl’s hands within reach. Often right under Carl’s nose, the “cat and mouse” chase between Carl and Frank is compelling and interesting, and brings Carl and the FBI to the many places Frank’s trail leads them. Through the chase, Frank Jr. and Carl develop a connection, and Frank Jr. later finds something he never expected.
This outstanding production which is produced into a fabulous Broadway musical provides the story from the 2002 movie which is set to music. The beginning of the production shows Frank Jr., about to be apprehended at the airport by FBI Agent, Carl Hanratty, is at the end of his chase and stops time to tell his story that is set to a musical journey. Included with a brilliant stage design, this production features a 10-piece orchestra which is a setting for a night club that creates a perfect backdrop for Frank’s story. The story journeys with a 1960’s genre complete with fun and exciting choreography, and an excellent musical score. I will have to say, when I left the theater, I knew that this show is a hit. Actually, I had that feeling at intermission.
The Tony Award-winning Catch Me If You Can creative team’s credentials and expertise speak for themselves. The book from Terrence Mc Nally, (The Full Monty, Ragtime), an outstanding score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray),
choreography by Jerry Mitchell, (Hairspray, Legally Blond), and the fabulous direction of Jack O’Brien, (Hairspray, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), stage design, by David Rockwell, video system and content design by Bob Bonniol, and lighting design by Kenneth Posner were beautiful and extremely entertaining, and well done. This team has created yet another show-stopping production that successfully provides an enjoyable experience for the audience. Actually, when I go to the theater, I expect nothing less. This superb production delivers in every way.
The performance of singer/actor Stephen Anthony, who portrays Frank Abagnale Jr., was fabulous. This young actor did not only successfully become Frank Abagnale Jr., but displayed Stephen’s phenomenal musical and dancing talent. Stephen’s fabulous portrayal of Frank Jr. made this part not only believable but fun to watch. I am certain that Stephen’s outstanding performance will bring much more to his career in the future. At the end of the performance, Frank Jr. sings “Goodbye”, which states that he is at the end of his deceptiveness, and ready to give up to Carl. Stephen’s powerful voice filled with emotion literally stopped the show.
Merritt David James who portrays FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, creates the gum shoe who will not give up on his pursuit for Frank Jr. Carl’s song, “The Man Inside the Clues” is about learning who is responsible for the forgery that he has detected. This song tells the story that Carl will not give up in finding his culprit. Merritt’s performance does not only portray him as the hard core FBI Agent , but shows the heart of a man who has no family and his entire life is his job. He comes to understand Frank’s motives through meeting Frank Jr’s. parents and develops an empathy for Frank Jr.
Excellent performances were also provided by supporting the cast of Dominic Fortuna, who plays Frank Jr’s. father; Caitlyn Maloney, who plays Frank Jr’s Mother; Aubrey Mae Davis, who plays Frank Jr’s. love interest Brenda Strong; and D. Scott Withers and Amy Burgmair who play Brenda’s New Orlean’s parents. My favorite moments from these performances included Brenda (Aubrey Mae Davis) singing a beautifully, powerful rendition of “Fly, Fly Away”, Brenda sings about the man she loves that she knows must leave her. Other favorites were Brenda, Frank Jr, and Brenda’s parents singing “Our Family Tree”. Brenda’s mother (Amy Burgmair), is an over the top southern mother, and Brenda’s father (D. Scott Withers), is a stiff southern conservative lawyer. With Brenda they sing a comical song about their family tree and that every family has secrets and things that they may not be too proud of. Frank Jr’s. French mother Paula, played by Caitlin Maloney and father, Frank Sr. played by Dominic Fortuna sing “Don’t be a Stranger” convincingly demonstrating Paula Abagnale’s strive to move on with her life, and Frank Sr’s. determination to win back her love. Finally, a very poignant scene where Frank Sr. (Dominic Fortuna), sings “Little Boy Be a Man” with Carl (Merritt David James), where FBI Agent Carl begins to better understand Frank Jr’s. motives for deception due to the dysfunction of his family.
The entire cast of singers and dancers were very cohesive to this performance. They all provided the perfect support to the lead characters, and performed well without taking away from the story. The 1960’s feel that I received from the sets, I received from the cast as well. The opening song “Live and In Living Color” and the song “Jet Set”, reminded me of the 1960’s Dean Martin television variety show with the Gold Diggers. All of the female dancers were extremely sexy, and beautiful, successfully utilized their seductive moves which created this Gold Digger illusion. The male cast members were equally as talented, bringing the ensemble together with perfect dancing and staging.
Catch Me If You Can proves to work as well or maybe even better as a musical than the movie. I know that this seems odd because it has every indication of possibly being cheesy. However, the story and music are so well written, the production moves swiftly where the audience is captivated for the entire performance. Even though, Catch Me If You Can is only at Chicago’s Cadillac Theater until April 14, I strongly recommend it for an enjoyable musical theater experience. I am certain that the production will return to Chicago in the very near future.
During this time with the threat of security fraud, it is amazing to see how far we have come in the past 50 years where we now need to be vigilant with passwords, credit cards, and addresses through computer technology. It is also interesting in knowing that 50 years ago security fraud could be easily pulled off with a pocket knife set, India ink, and Elmer’s glue. The happy ending to the true story is the real Frank Abagnale Jr. is now one of the world’s leading authorities on secure documents, fraud, identity theft, and embezzlement. He served seven years of a fifteen year prison sentence and went on to assist the FBI with Carl Hanratty’s mentoring and assistance. Frank Jr.s life turned out well just being himself. He is married for 36 years and has children and grandchildren, and has the family life he always dreamed of.