Did you ever want to be someone you’re not? Did anyone ever not want to be someone they’re not? This clunky 2011 Broadway adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film (in turn based on the real-life tale of con man Frank Abagnale Jr.) makes the mistake of thinking that appealing to our aspirational desires is as good as telling an aspirational story.
As in the movie, Frank Jr. (portrayed onscreen by Leonardo DiCaprio and onstage by charming, full-throated newcomer Stephen Anthony) runs away from home as a teenager and makes a living first by passing bad checks, then by passing himself off in succession as an airline pilot, doctor and attorney. Even though Abagnale was a precocious youngster, Anthony can’t quite make his seductiveness outweigh his baby face.
Terrence McNally’s by-the-numbers book and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s ’60s-pastiche score fail to keep our attention when Frank’s offstage. Merritt David Janes’s Agent Carl Hanratty can’t match the schlubby charisma of the film’s Tom Hanks or the Broadway production’s Tony-winning Norbert Leo Butz. Choreographer Jerry Mitchell’s constantly repeating chorus lines of leggy stewardesses and nurses, for all their attempts to capture our gaze, aren’t worth the chase.