Review: Catch Me if You Can
A Spielberg caper flick tries to impersonate a Broadway musical.
Mon Apr 11 2011
Photograph: Joan Marcus
WINGS OF DESIRE Tveit, left, gets ready to fly the friendly skies.
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
For a show that glories in the art of the con, Catch Me if You Can is perfectly frank about its ulterior motive: It wants to be a slick retro attraction that draws in the tourists, cruising at the moderately high altitude of Steven Spielberg's 2002 film about fraud prodigy Frank Abagnale Jr. and his dogged nemesis, FBI agent Carl Hanratty. But we're never quite taken in. The dances by Jerry Mitchell are aerobic and safely smutty, and director Jack O'Brien gives the zippy 1960s milieu his usual high-gloss sheen of bubbly lan. But Terrence McNally's lazy book and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's ersatz, period-pastiche score don't hold together as a plausible lie. The key production elements, in not showing enough confidence, can't win ours.
The fault might be in Catch Me's awkward framing device. Early on, just as he's finally nabbed in an airport, Frank (Tveit, ruthlessly charming) stops the action and insists on telling the audience his version of the story, against the wishes of the schlumpy but persistent Hanratty (Butz, full-bodied, triumphant). Frank opts for the format of a classic 1960s TV variety show, with sexy dancers, broad comedy and plenty of swinging tunes. But this may not be the best way to tell the story of a teenager who cashed more than $2 million in forged checks and impersonated an airline pilot and a pediatrician. The TV-special approach condenses large amounts of material into a jaunty, episodic structure punctuated by brassy numbers, but it also flattens the relationships—especially the potentially moving father-son bond between Frank and Carl.
Catch Me's vision of femininity is also phony, to the point of being irksome. Overeager to cultivate a Mad Men vibe of prefeminist glitz, Mitchell gives us miles of shapely, homogenized chorine leg in a pandering pageant of mock-hetero desire; and Brenda (Butler), the nurse Frank falls for, is a cheap and tinny role. Yes, we know, the show is about men: handsome young rapscallions and homely middle-aged enforcers. But we don't care enough about the chase they give us. We want to trust the trickery, but the flimflam is just too flimsy.
Neil Simon Theatre. Book by Terrence McNally. Music by Marc Shaiman. Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman. Dir. Jack O'Brien. With Aaron Tveit, Norbert Leo Butz, Kerry Butler. 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.