Reporting Sara Pelissero
There’s a scene near the end of the show where Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (played by Stephen Anthony) looks completely puzzled.
The man whose been chasing him for years, Agent Carl Hanratty (Merritt David Janes), has just made him an offer — go to prison for years of fraud and cashing millions of dollars of forged checks and when you’re released, come work for the FBI.
In one small moment, the entire story comes full circle. The life of Frank Abagnale, Jr. is perhaps the most shocking upon realizing its truth. While most of us were learning to drive and thinking about college, Frank was ditching his pilot uniform for a doctor’s lab coat, while shoving millions in counterfeit money into an empty suitcase.
In order to translate this incredible story to the stage, Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman created a brilliant adaptation. Where the movie picks up years later during Frank’s appearance on the 1977 game show “To Tell The Truth,” the musical takes it a step further — allowing Frank to tell his incredible tale through his very own TV show.
Frank’s show has everything you’d imagine a young, imaginative, attention-seeking teenager to have — backup dancers, girls in skimpy costumes, plenty of flashing lights and his very own on-stage big, brass band.
The story starts with Frank’s picture-perfect life — a mother and father who seem to be the definition of true love, a gorgeous, well-furnished home and a future that seemingly beams of fortune and success.
When that picture starts to crumble — his father loses a loan and discovers his business practices are being investigated by the IRS, his mother’s eye starts to wander and Frank is forced into public schooling — the door for mischief and excitement swings wide open.
There’s a new level of difficulty that inevitably comes from translating a story from a well-known (and well-loved) movie to a stage show with musical numbers. But what this show does well is keep those translations as literal as possible.
Songs like “The Pinstripes Are All That They See” or “Butter Outta Cream” are inspired by direct and memorable quotes from the movie and the staging throughout the show brings many of its ever-changing scenes to life.
As both an added bonus and a bit of a strike against the show, Abagnale Jr. breaks character occasionally to narrate his thought process and give a bit of background to his many schemes and plots. While it’s a welcomed and fun dialogue — which you don’t get in the film — it also slows the storyline and takes away from the tempo of the chase, something that was highly successful in the movie.
Still, Antony’s portrayal of Frank Abagnale, Jr. is upbeat and light-hearted when it needs to be, but takes a turn into the lonely realities of a scared, young man when the truth comes knocking. He’s both utterly adorable and yet, one of the most sympathetic master criminals to date.
His counterpoint, Janes’ Carl Hanratty, at times, steals the show with his unyielding determination that casts a shadow over his own lonesome tendencies. Plus, Janes’ rendition of “Don’t Break the Rules” could undoubtedly be the musical number of the night.
Other highlights include Aubrey Mae Davis’ Brenda, as a wide-eyed lovestruck woman unknowingly caught in a tangle of lies and struggling to find her own way out. Her song, “Fly, Fly Away” is emotionally charged and perfectly performed.
Dominic Fortuna, as Frank Abagnale, Sr., reminded me a bit more of Tony Danza than Christopher Walken (who played the part in the film) but was top-notch in the part of a struggling father trying to mask his shortcomings and hold tight to his pride.
Though the true star of the show is Mr. Frank Abagnale, Jr. himself — who performed the greatest encore through a Q&A with the audience following Tuesday’s premiere.
His life is beyond belief and as is true in this performance, the best stories are those that you simply can’t make up.
“Catch Me If You Can” runs from tonight until Sunday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets are $34 to $79. Runtime: Two hours, 30 minutes including one intermission. For more information, click here.
WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha Interviews The Cast