“Catch Me if You Can” arrives at the Pantages without the star energy of its original Broadway leads Aaron Tveit (now onscreen in “Les Mis”) and Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz. The non-Equity cast, however, is not the problem. What grounded the tuner in Gotham remains on painful display with this touring show: a mismatch of story and song.
Would Frank Abagnale Jr (Stephen Anthony), a real-life genius con-artist adventurer, really be inspired by TV variety shows from the 1960s, and so see his life in the terms of Mitzi Gaynor and Ed Sullivan? Yes, at one point, songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have their Abagnale sing along with “The Mitch Miller Show” as he watches the tube, hence, yet another generic production number. While he’s playing couch potato, why not have Abagnale sing along with Lawrence Welk?
In Stephen Spielberg’s film version, the Abagnale of Leo DiCaprio is a driven, edgy, brilliant man as he scams people out of their money and cons them into thinking he’s a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer. An aficionado of the June Taylor Dancers he’s not.
The other problem with adapting the Spielberg film to the stage is that the actors playing Abagnale and his FBI nemesis Carl Hanratty (Merritt David Janes) must inhabit the same physical space — the stage. On film, while DiCaprio and Tom Hanks share the screen, through editing we believe that one of them is working in Boston while the other is hiding in Europe. In the theater, you just want to scream out, “He’s right there in the wings, stupid!” The result is that the show isn’t about a fascinating chase. It’s about an incompetent FBI agent.
The non-Equity cast is no help, although Anthony has talent. He’d make a good Cornelius in “Hello, Dolly!” But there again, do you want to see a young Michael Crawford replace a dark, scheming DiCaprio? Better question: Why is the musical theater version of a film always so much blander?
Troika Entertainment has brought on a new team to stage, although the original creatives are credited. (See credits above.) One improvement from Broadway is the set, designed here and there by David Rockwell. The orchestra now sits on a stationary but swooping stage that looks more than ready for takeoff.