Catch Me If You Can is one of those stories you find yourself thinking, "I couldn't make this stuff up."
The Orpheum's latest musical is loosely based on the true life story of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr., who, at age 16, runs away from home in search of the glamorous life and quickly became an expert forger.
Before long, he's cashing bad checks around New York City and forging ID badges, successfully passing himself off as a Pan Am airline pilot (yes, this is the late 1960s, long before before 9/11). He later impersonates a doctor and a lawyer with Harvard credentials, no less (at least he has the good sense to go top drawer).
If this premise sounds vaguely familiar, it's because Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks starred in Steven Speilberg's film back in 2002. A friend I spoke with before the show knew far more about Abagnale's escapades than I did, but that didn't to spoil my evening one bit. This fun, energetic show provides a perfect bit of cotton candy escapism.
The first act is frothy and light, with pop-art imagery providing a colorful backdrop to the action. Stephen Anthony plays Abagnale, bringing just the right blend of youthful innocence and guile as he cons his way into a jet-set lifestyle. The show becomes a cat and mouse game between Abagnale and the bumbling FBI men who pursue him. Agent Carl Hanratty, played by Merritt David Janes, has the true north sense of honesty and integrity Abagnale lacks but perhaps secretly yearns for. It's interesting to note that the two eventually forged a lifelong bond.
As musicals go, the songs are rather forgettable. But the leggy showgirls, who appear as stewardesses and later as nurses, provide snappy eye candy. I found the second act is less compelling, even though Abagnale gets the girl. Perhaps it's because the law eventually gets their man, though not before the entreprenuerial teen has run up more than $2.5 million tab.
Plan to spend an evening in Abagnale's colorful world. It's an entertaining romp that playfully reminds us that while crime may not pay, no one says you can't enjoy the ride.