Written by Scotty Keister
Frank Abagnale, Jr. is a fascinating character from 1960s American crime lore. Before reaching the age of 21 he forged checks and bilked million of dollars from banks. He posed as a Pan Am pilot, a surgeon in a Georgia hospital and even an attorney—to name but a few of his alleged professions. Eventually he was caught, and after serving a minimum sentence, he became a fraud consultant for the FBI. Steven Spielberg made a lighthearted and fun movie of his life, Catch Me If You Can, which focused on the taut relationship between Abagnale and Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent who pursued and eventually arrested him. Sound like the perfect recipe for a Broadway musical? It’s not. The production currently running at the Attic Community Theater ably demonstrates its shortcomings.
With book by Terrence McNally and songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (credits inexplicably left out of the program) Catch Me If You Can shambles along from scene to scene without creating any dramatic tension or feeling for its characters. There are loads of songs . Too many songs. There is a song every three minutes. The music is all reminiscent of 60s TV variety shows, as is the choreography. It feels dated and overdone. It’s all meant to be colorful and fun and to some degree it is entertaining, but when repeated over and over again throughout the show, it just gets tiring. Furthermore, the show drags on for much too long. The four main women dancers have excellent chops, but it pretty much ends there. There is some good work being done by a large cast, but much of it feels a bit sloppy and under-rehearsed.
In this production, we are at least fortunate to have Jeffrey Bonser playing Abagnale Jr. He has a wit and charm that brings to mind Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in the film. However, Bob Fetes as Agent Hanratty —though an able performer —too often resembles Yosemite Sam —snorting and huffing up a storm. Lisa Baker as Frank’s mother, Jim Huffman as his father, and Brittani Prenger (the best voice in the show) as his fiancé are all good in parts but fall victim to the script’s failure to develop the characters into anything more than cardboard cutouts.
Kathy Paladino’s direction moves things along as well as possible, but the constant song and dance numbers detract from what little storyline there is. The show wants to simplify Abagnale’s crimes as a cry for paternal attention, first from his own father —a small time conman himself —and then from Agent Hanratty. Nope. It doesn’t fly, doesn’t carry the story and feels like tacked on drama. All of this would be meaningless if the rest of the show was able to lift itself on the wings of a con artist, but it sinks to earth like a popped balloon. By the end of the show we aren’t left with much. Abagnale comes off like a cute but bratty child, and Hanratty is the frustrated babysitter trying to get him to behave.
The costumes by Diann Smith are colorful (there are a lot of costumes) and there is an abundance of G-rated hijinks. Although not all the voices are accomplished, they are at least enthusiastic and audible. For undemanding theatergoers who are just looking for a lot of singing and dancing with nothing to think about, Catch Me If You Can will likely be a fun evening. The show runs through September 10.