Critics praise adaptation of Spielberg pic

‘Catch Me if You Can’

5th Avenue Theater, Seattle

The Verdict looks at critical reaction to key productions opening Off Broadway, regionally and abroad that appear likely candidates for further life on Broadway and/or elsewhere.

Commercial producers of the new tuner version of “Catch Me if You Can,” which opened at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater Aug. 6, have decided to bow the show out of town without a subsequent Broadway run yet confirmed. But now, with a generally upbeat reception from the local press, the show’s Broadway odds are looking good.

Musical is the follow-up from the Tony-winning creative team of “Hairspray,” with songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, helmer Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell all reuniting for “Catch Me,” based on the 2002 pic and the memoir on which it was based. Scribe Terrence McNally, who worked with O’Brien and Mitchell on “The Full Monty,” penned the book.

Seattle critics seemed largely charmed by the 1960s-set show, although all noted that work could be done to trim the running time and resolve inconsistencies in storytelling and tone. And all were enthusiastic about the cast, topped by Aaron Tveit (“Next to Normal”) as conman Frank Abagnale Jr. and Norbert Leo Butz as the FBI agent pursuing him. Also earning high marks were Tom Wopat as Abagnale’s father and Kerry Butler (another “Hairspray” alum) as the love interest.

Here’s what Seattle critics said:

  • Calling it “an aqua-and-tangerine trip to the early ’60s,” Variety‘s Lynn Jacobson found the show promising but said some honing was still in order. “It’s most appealing when it keeps things stylish and upbeat,” she wrote, but “when it pauses for a backstory ballad or a cry-in-your-beer confessional, ‘Catch Me’ feels heavy and slow.” The running time could be trimmed, too, she added. Still, the performances didn’t disappoint, with Jacobson giving a serious nod to lead Tveit: “Tveit makes a star turn as Frank Abagnale Jr. Charismatic, poised, confident, keen, Tveit is utterly convincing as a man who likes to convince.”

  • Also singling out Tveit, Misha Berson of the Seattle Times noted some creative work remains to be done but similarly applauded the performances. She liked the “smart, melodious score” and “sleek direction” but added, “The show isn’t always sure where it’s headed. And it’s a longer (three hours), bumpier jaunt than need be, with a few questionable detours en route.”

  • The Seattle Post Globe’s Gianni Truzzi agreed “Catch Me” could be shorter, saying the show is “in need of substantial cuts.” Still, the production “offers few missteps,” with the critic remarking that while “many musicals made from popular films slavishly try to re-create the screenplay, playwright Terrence McNally wisely goes his own way.”

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