Catch Me If You Can: The Musical is a con man's story, and the biggest con is the show itself. Like seeing a superbly performed magic trick, we're going to buy it, and happily revel in being duped, or that is what is promised: a conceit that separates this traditional Broadway vehicle from the 2002 caper movie of its inspiration.
From the beginning, we see Frank Abagnale, Jr. arrested at a Miami airport for an array of misdeeds and misdirections. He's going to show us how to make "butter out of cream," in Catch Me lingo. To limn the storyline, as a teen, Frank not only passes bad checks, he passes himself off as a doctor, lawyer, whatever. But hey, self-invention is the ultimate American myth; add to that the Freudian search for the father and you've got what lifts this song and dance vehicle, even if by play's end that father-son pair is united by handcuffs.
With book by Terrence McNally, songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, under the direction of Jack O'Brien, Catch Me is set in the pre-hippie sixties, featuring a trip down memory lane with Mitch Miller singalongs and sandwich board advertisements, burlesque-style fan dancing and kick lines. By intermission, Catch Me held a matinee audience in its palm.
That is largely because in number after number, a dream ensemble led by a lithe and charismatic Aaron Tveit as Frank, Tom Wopat as his con man, boozy dad, and Norbert Leo Butz as Carl Hanratty, the shleppy cop who takes him in, dazzles.
The show's women, Kerry Butler as Brenda, Frank's naïve fiancée, Rachel de Benedet as Frank's French mother, and Linda Hart as Brenda's southern mom, are all excellent in their solos. Brenda's "Fly, Fly Away" is particularly affecting. But, like the leggy showgirls, these women move a narrative that belongs to the men. Especially Norbert Leo Butz. His Act I dance to the jazzy, "Don't Break the Rules," not only explains how he got to work at the FBI, but his comic footwork pops; surprising and hilarious in fits and jolts, it is one of many reasons to see this entertaining show. Line up his Tony now.
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