BWW Reviews: Fun, Pulsating CATCH ME IF YOU CAN at Pantages
It used to be, in days gone by, that hit Broadway shows would be made into movies; now, it's the reverse. With a dearth of ideas for Broadway musicals, the trend lately has been to turn to the big screen and revamp a popular film for the stage, adding song and dance. Such was the case with 9 to 5 and later Legally Blonde engendering quite a bit of success. Those two had female stars at the core, so it's high time a male got some attention. Voila! Catch Me If You Can has a quirky real-life story about an anti-hero Frank Abagnale Jr. (Stephen Anthony) who in the 60s was called the Johnny Appleseed of fraud. The outstanding creative team of book writer Terrence McNally and musical wizards Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman took an old idea and created an entertainingly fresh showcase around it. The resultant Catch Me If You Can which received several Tony Award nominations in 2012 - one win for Norbert Leo Butz as Best Featured Actor playing Agent Carl Hanratty - is on tour and now playing the Pantages through March 24 with Merritt David Janes essaying Hanratty.
At intermission I said to my friend "It's fun; the dancing is fab, Anthony is great, but the songs are hardly memorable except the opener "Live in Living Color", and, for Pete's sake, where's the heart?" Had I not returned for Act II, I would have been immensely disappointed, as the show gushed forth most everything I asked for, especially great musical numbers such as "Don't Be a Stranger" for terrific Caitlin Maloney as mother Paula, "Little Boy, Be a Man" giving Dominic Fortuna some great moments as Frank Sr., "Seven Wonders", one of the score's most beautiful romantic ballads, "Family Tree", "Fly, Fly Away" a wonderfully dramatic turn for Aubrey Mae Davis as Brenda and Anthony's sensational 11th hour "Good-Bye" and then, as if all of those tunes in a row were not enough, "Strange But True" a duet for Frank and Carl joyously rang down the curtain. And as for heart, the storyline of Frank and Brenda's unpredicted love affair and Frank's genuine desire to go straight and build a better life...well, it all came full circle, delivering the goods and then-some. So, the moral is, do not leave the theatre at intermission' if you are not thoroughly engaged, you may find what you're looking for in the second act.
A simply marvelous cast under Jack O'Brien's pulsating clockwork direction! Anthony as Frank Jr. is so appealing from the onset, you can't help but root for him. We should not applaud his cons, but we do. Anthony is thoroughly winning! Fortuna and Maloney are dynamite as the parents, Davis is precious as Brenda and Janes does his best to make a serious role quirky and funny, although I must admit I prefer to have seen the prolifically crazed Norbert Leo Butz in the role. Jerry Mitchell's choreography is spot on fabulous, and every chorus number divine. Those amazon gals as 'the stewardesses and nurses from Paradise or... from hell' are unbelievable!
Getting back to what I said in the beginning, the creators took an old concept - making a vaudeville show out of crime, which was done so brilliantly in Chicago - and did make it work well here. The ending is sort of like the one in Mel Brooks' shining hit The Producers. There, buddies Max and Leo walk into the sunset; here it's unexpected friends Carl and Frank who go out with a bang. It clicks and brings the audience mega joy, so, as entertainment, who could ask for anything more? Right? David Rockwell's scenic design with ramps and full orchestra onstage and Bob Bonniol's video and content design add magic to The Frank Abagnale Jr. Variety Show...or Catch Me If You Can. Go and enjoy!