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"Catch Me If You Can", The Musical, at the Neil Simon Theatre
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"Catch Me If You Can", The Musical, at the Neil Simon Theatre

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Catch Me If You Can, The Musical
(Catch Me If You Can, The Musical, Website)
Based on the Dreamworks Motion Picture

Book by Terrence McNally
(Frank Abagnale Bio)
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman

At the
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street

Starring: Norbert Leo Butz, Aaron Tveit
Tom Wopat, Kerry Butler
Rachel de Benedet, Linda Hart, Nick Wyman, Jay Armstrong Jackson
Joe Cassidy, Timothy McCuen Piggee, Brandon Wardell

And an ensemble of singers/actors/dancers

Directed by Jack O’Brien
Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Music Direction by John McDaniel

Scenic Design: David Rockwell
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Casting: Telsey + Company
Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy
Hair and Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Assoc. Director: Matt Lenz
Production Stage Manager: Rolt Smith
Technical Supervisor: Chris Smith/Smitty
Assoc. Producers: Brian Smith/T. Rick Hayashi
Advertising: SpotCo
General Manager: The Charlotte Wilcox Company
Press Agent: The Hartman Group
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Orchestrations: Marc Shaiman & Larry Blank
Arrangements: Marc Shaiman
Assoc. Choreographers: Joey Pizzi/Nick Kenkel

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2011

This new musical show about the life of con artist, Frank Abagnale, Jr., (Aaron Tveit), who endlessly eludes FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Norbert Leo Butz) is shallow and synthetic, in comparison to the riveting film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, as Frank and Carl. Speaking of synthetic, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s music and lyrics shift between cool, bluesy jazz and recorded telephone music, while Jerry Mitchell’s choreography is somewhat cartoonish, of the Fantasia variety. This was so disappointing, considering David Rockwell’s magnetic sets that drew me into a glitzy Pan Am flight, a hospital emergency room, a dim, dreary bar, a Louisiana dinner table, and a New Rochelle family courtroom. And, William Ivey Long’s sexy stewardesses, so sixties, so swell. Why celebrate scenes and costumes first? Because the visuals were the high points, a setting worth another show. Even placing the orchestra onstage enhanced the photographic elements of this “could-have-been” madcap chase.

Catch Me If You Can is based on Abagnale’s fascinating autobiography of his many years refining his skills in check-forging, certificate-forging, degree-forging, and so on, allowing him to pose as a substitute teacher, when a student, an emergency room doctor, when he was afraid of blood, a lawyer, when he was a high-school dropout, and a pilot, when all he did was travel in the cockpit jump seat. He flew all over the world, forging checks, even to a hooker. But, the one role he didn’t forge was his role as lover to Brenda Strong, whose parents took him in, even after learning of his multiple duplicities. Carl, however, like Frank, had no personal roots; he was married to his job, and he obsessively tracked Frank, often losing him just a few feet away, before he won his catch. Frank even called Carl on Christmas, just to taunt the workaholic recluse. As a musical, the show has to achieve the fluid tension of the chase, and, as mentioned above, the infusion of telephone music midst the jazz had the effect of fragmenting this very disjointed production.

Yet, there was one sweeping segment that brought the house down, and that’s thanks to Mr. Butz. With an over-sized fedora, dark glasses, and short, portly physique, Mr. Butz danced with his agents in “Don’t Break the Rules”, whipping up fancy, repetitive footwork that made you wish the moment would endure. It was only Act I, and, alas, the moment passed. But, Jerry Mitchell’s line dance of suits was an astounding visual, so robust, so machismo. Tom Wopat and Rachel de Benedet are Frank’s parents, Frank Sr. and the French-born Paula, whose sudden divorce is the catalyst for Frank’s initial run. Frank Sr. doesn’t survive the breakup, choosing the bottle to ease the loss, but Paula starts a new life with her husband’s best friend. Mr. Wopat and Mr. Butz, as the father and the hunter, are the performers who carry this show. Mr. Wopat plays the depressive, who started his son’s cagey career with a personal checkbook and a mantra about a mouse making butter, to climb out of a cup of cream. Mr. Butz is a dynamo, talking fast and running faster. He grabs the eye and makes you root for his catch, as Mr. Tveit remains lackluster. Kerry Butler as Brenda Strong was unfortunately lost in the maelstrom, a great actress without a great role. The songs were even more lackluster, like “Someone Else’s Skin” and “Our Family Tree”. Kudos to Frank Abagnale, Jr., who’s now, himself, with the FBI.

Aaron Tveit and the Cast
of "Catch Me If You Can"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Aaron Tveit and the Cast
of "Catch Me If You Can"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Norbert Leo Butz and the Cast
of "Catch Me If You Can"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Kerry Butler as Brenda Strong in
"Catch Me If You Can"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at