Like most teenagers, Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. applies for his first job, spends his first paycheck, meets his first love, and discovers his own identity as he draws closer to adulthood. Unlike most teenagers, Frank W. Abagnale, Jr.'s identity consists of an ever-increasing series of aliases, the checks he so freely writes are "rubber," and he has absolutely no qualifications for any of the positions – pilot, doctor, lawyer – for which he is hired.
Based on an incredible true story, Catch Me If You Can explores Frank's family life, his exploits and adventures, and the cross-country chase that ensues when his forgEd Checks and high-flying antics catch the attention of the FBI's most dogged agent.
Stephen Anthony plays Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. to perfection. Anthony is a powerhouse singer and Catch Me If You Can gives ample opportunities to showcase his talent. His youthful look well suits the role, he radiates the charisma and charm necessary for Frank's cons to be believable and, notably, he keeps the character controlled. Though Frank's schemes are over-the-top, Anthony's portrayal makes him human, very much a young man longing for family and vulnerable in spite of his remarkable savvy and poise.
Merritt David Janes is delightful as Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent who vows to bring Frank to justice. Hanratty is the straight man to Abagnale's colorful exuberance, and Janes' delivery makes his dry one-liners some of the funniest moments in the show. Janes deftly handles Hanratty's own transformation from an unbending, strictly black-and-white view of crime and criminals to one of justice with discerning compassion. This character growth is evident in Janes' barroom scene with Dominic Fortuna, who plays Frank Abagnale, Sr., and it comes to full fruition in Hanratty's final confrontation with Frank, Jr.
Catch Me If You Can works remarkably well as a musical production. Frank's imaginative cons and boyish confidence lend themselves to the song-and-dance atmosphere of a Broadway show, and each musical number and dance routine supports the storyline. "Live in Living Color" brings out Frank, Jr.'s consummate showmanship, "Don't Break the Rules" helps to define Hanratty's motivations, and "Butter Outta Cream" highlights both Fortuna and Anthony's great father-son rapport and their characters' heartwarming and heartbreaking relationship. Caitlin Maloney's portrayal of Frank Jr.'s elegant but detached mother, Paula, is well defined in "Don't be a Stranger," a beautifully choreographed number featured early in the second act.
Jerry Mitchell's choreography is energetic and complex, accompanied by a truly catchy score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The show's orchestra performs in full view on stage, the musicians' presence contributing to the razzle-dazzle air of Frank's storytelling. Catch Me If You Can uses a minimum of props and set pieces, but each scene is accompanied by a projection screen at the rear of the stage. The crisp, bright images complement the plot's momentum and give a strong feeling of time and place, but the illuminations never overshadow the actors' performance.
Catch Me If You Can is entertaining, smart, highly enjoyable, and, at its core, has a lot of heart. The production certainly sparks an interest in learning more about Frank W. Abagnale, Jr.'s remarkable youth, and his life and work in the years following this story's close.
Catch Me If You Can plays the Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, October 14, 2012. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ppacri.org, by phone (401) 421-ARTS (2787), or by visiting the box office at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI. Ticket prices range from $42-$69 and discounted rates are available for groups of 20 or more.