Catch Me if You Can, the eagerly anticipated new Broadway musical based on the breezy 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio film, is a product of essentially the same creative team behind the mega-hit Hairspray. It is even playing in the same theater as Hairspray and shares an early 1960s setting.
But in spite of so much promise and expectation, Catch Me if You Can is so disappointing that it will leave you wishing you could travel back in time and watch Hairspray again instead.
As in the original film, teenager Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Aaron Tveit) escapes from suburbia and proceeds to finance himself by writing bad checks. Meanwhile, determined FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Norbert Leo Butz) chases Abagnale around the country in a cat-and-mouse game.
Frank also manages to convincingly pass himself off as a pilot, doctor and lawyer. But his jet-setting lifestyle hits a speed bump when he becomes engaged to a nurse and tries to settle down.
The show’s writers make the corny choice of framing the show as a confessional flashback. It begins with the FBI capturing Frank, who then proceeds to narrate his story to the audience, treating it as if it were a television variety show. This results in choppy storytelling that trades the film’s fun for never-ending exposition.
The score, by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, has a swinging 60s flavor but is deficient of melody and frequently irritating. On a similar note, Jerry Mitchell’s go-go choreography is energetic but generic.
The modelesque Tveit, who carries the entire show on his shoulders, should be praised for his sheer physical stamina and chameleon-like ability to credibly portray all of Frank’s personas. However, his performance is inferior to the dark and thrilling one he gave in Next to Normal.
Butz and Kerry Butler (who plays Brenda Strong), both major Broadway talents, suffer from their poor material. Only Tom Wopat manages to make a strong impression as Frank’s father, who slowly disintegrates into a drunken and broken man. The chorus of leggy showgirls also makes for nice eye candy.