Catch Me If You Can (directed by Jack O’Brien) is based on an account of Frank Abagnale Jr.’s exploits as an impersonator and con artist in the 1960s, beginning when he was only 16.
I enjoyed this show enough to mostly ignore the obvious sexism, which is an impressive feat on the director’s part. The plot was fascinating, and strikingly different from other Broadway musicals. Though a criminal, Frank’s growth and development throughout the show gained my empathy and investment in the story- it helped that his criminal activity was so clever and entertaining.
To my chagrin, the main male characters were surrounded by scantily-clad, sexy, obsessive women behaving in irrational and unrealistic ways (a.k.a. the chorus line). When Frank Jr. posed as a doctor, the nurses chased after him and tried to seduce him. It seemed like some weird nurse-fetish strip show. To give credit where it’s due, the women were impressively racially diverse for Broadway. The message seemed to be that “racism isn’t okay, but sexism certainly is.”
The set was simple, effective, and pretty. It had quite a few layers of scenery in the foreground, including a gauzy curtain, a backdrop of moving clouds projected on a sky-printed scrim, and several movable black panels, some of which were suspended. I loved how versatile these were; they made for seamless transitions as they were moved to block out different parts of the stage. At times they left only a dramatic square of light surrounded by darkness, while other times they set the scene of a motel room or a family’s home.
Seeing the full orchestra on the tall curving riser was impressive. Behind the musicians, a screen displayed the background or additional glitzy lights and other effects. It caught my attention, but not to the point of distraction. It added nicely to the atmosphere, as did the lighting.
The lighting set the mood well in every scene, helping to create a different atmosphere for each setting. In the office of the FBI, dark, mysterious lighting. In a classy French bar, bright white lights, suiting the decor. In Brenda’s home, a rich, warm glow. The more glamourous numbers were lit with a multitude of colours.
The scene transitions were so smooth that I didn’t notice them at first. Once I realized how seamless they were, I paid attention to the set changes. There was never complete darkness, but some of the stage was darkened or covered by drapes so the scenery could be stealthily changed, which was clever and effective.
I found Stephen Anthony’s performance as Frank Abagnale Jr. sometimes cheesy and overdone, but still somehow endearing. His voice was very clear in the beginning, evolving into an emotional crooning tone by the end. Brenda’s (Aubrey Mae Davis) powerful voice was impressive, but was only showcased in “Fly, Fly Away.” The one performance I actively disliked was Caitlin Maloney’s Paula. She had an overstated, unbelievable, and eye-roll inducing French accent.
In conclusion, let’s ignore the annoying French accents and ridiculous sexism and enjoy (a glamorized version of) the impressive life story of Frank Abagnale Jr.