Check out the well-produced and wonderfully acted national tour of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (now thru Sunday) if you feel a chill and are looking for a thrill.
Written by Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the ace songwriters behind NBC’s recently cancelled Broadway soap “Smash,” CATCH ME covers the same ground as the celebrated Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks movie, but in a completely different trope. Along with Tony Award-winning book writer Terrence McNally, the Smash boys have dreamed up a Dean Martin/Carol Burnett-style 60s TV variety show to frame the tale of Frank Abagnale, Jr, real life conman and pilot/doctor/lawyer impersonator.
The leggy ladies open the show “Goldigger” style with Frank mixing it up with agent Carl Hanratty in a sort of Rowan and Martin Laugh-In team– though, for Hanratty, this is no laughing matter. He’s the FBI agent who’s dedicated his life to catching Abagnale (Tom Hanks role in the movie).
Sixteen year old Frank has issues– Mom’s sleeping with Dad’s friend, Dad lost his business and the IRS is after him. Hanratty’s also a mess– a workaholic with no life, he even spends Christmas at his desk. The dance these two do drives CATCH ME as we flashback from the show’s big opening number to the story of how Frank devolved into a life of crime and Carl finally caught him. Heady stuff for a musical comedy, but it works.
Steve Anthony as Frank Jr lights up the stage. Peek in as he gradually catches on to the flim flam that becomes his M.O. His scenes with Dad (the macho Dominic Fortuna) and Mom (a lovely, heartbreaking Caitlin Maloney) are touchingly all too real. Anthony opens up Abagnale to us for the character’s confusion and hurt, all while singing and dancing up a storm with those lovely chorus cuties (the male ensemble does a nice job, too).
Merritt David Janes makes a fine Agent Hanratty, channeling the spirit of Broadway original Norbert Leo Butz, who won a Tony for the role. Aubrey Mae Davis is sweet as Frank Jr’s love interest; she really nails “Fly. Fly Away,” the second act ballad that Kerry Butler introduced on Broadway.
The set looks great— that’s a lot of budget up there on the Diamond Vision-style back wall that pops all night long, moving the action from airport to hospital to swinging singles apartment back to the TV show (designed, by the way, by David Rockwell, who also did Lidia’s in the Freight House District). The Broadway creative team is on board– Jack O’Brien‘s direction and Jerry Mitchell‘s choreographer fill the Starlight stage. Sound is terrific, even with the wind blowing plastic cups up and down the aisles in Swope Park.
A flop on Broadway, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN plays great at Starlight.
Catch it, if you can.