Con-man musical catches a '60s vibe

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2012 - 7:07 PM

REVIEW: Starry Broadway creative team stages a jazzy real-life crime story.

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Stephen Anthony, left, as Frank Abagnale Jr. and Merritt David Janes as Carl Hanratty in "Catch Me If You Can."

Has the entertainment industry overdone the '60s?

"Catch Me If You Can," which was created by the award-winning team that brought us "Hairspray," had its glitzy opening Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

The musical salutes the era of "Mad Men" and Rat Pack-style TV variety shows in songs by Marc Shaiman and co-lyricist Scott Wittman, dances by choreographer Jerry Mitchell and character sketches shaped by book writer Terrence McNally and director Jack O'Brien.

"Catch Me" is a splashy crime story that supposedly has "more curves than a Playboy bunny." Yet, despite its jazzy score, its leggy dancers and smoothly told entertainment, it feels a little canned. It is surprisingly strait-laced and predictably clever.

Based on a true story that was made into a 2002 movie by Steven Spielberg, "Catch Me" opens in an airport terminal where guns-drawn FBI agents have finally cornered international con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. Their quarry, who has made up stories to survive, tells one last tale (to us) about his life. It is in a flashback imagined as a 1960s show.

At 16, Frank (Stephen Anthony) is asked by a judge to choose between divorcing parents. Should he live with his cheating French mom, Paula (Caitlin Maloney) or his down-on-his-luck G.I. dad, Frank, Sr. (Dominic Fortuna)? Junior runs away from home.

He becomes a forger and impostor to survive, passing himself off as a Pan Am pilot, an Atlanta pediatrician and a Louisiana prosecutor. Frank eventually falls deeply for a nurse named Brenda (Aubrey Mae Davis). Love makes him want to settle down even if it is hard for us to see how she can love such a chronic liar.

Anthony, a 2012 Florida State University graduate, is suavely handsome in his break-out lead role. He moves well and is creditable singer-actor who invests Frank with chutzpah and charm. If his character does not have a wide emotional range, charge it to the creative team.

Anthony is well-paired with Merritt David Janes, who plays lead FBI pursuer and would-be father figure Carl Hanratty. Janes' delivery of "Don't Break the Rules," a first act character-revealing song, is one of the highlights of the show. The other musical highlight is by Davis' Brenda, the surprising "Fly, Fly Away."

The three stars are surrounded by an expert company and backed by a fluid orchestra elevated at center stage. Still, this show, which is suffused with the theme of flight, could have used a little more imagination and fancy.

Tuesday's opening was attended by the real Abagnale, who took questions about his life in crime, his jail time and his 36-year career as an FBI fraud-fighter.

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390 • Follow on Twitter: @RohanPreston

  • related content

  • 'Catch Me If You Can' takes flight

    Wednesday December 12, 2012

    The story of legendary scammer Frank Abagnale has found new life in a musical by some big Broadway names.

  • CATCH ME

    IF YOU CAN

    What: Book by Terrence McNally. Music by Marc Shaiman, who also wrote lyrics with Scott Wittman. Directed by Jack O'Brien.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Thu., 7 p.m. Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat. 1 & 6:30 p.m. Sun.

    Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

    Tickets: $34-$79. 1-800-982-2787 or www.hennepintheatretrust.org.

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