Posted by: David Stewart | August 2, 2009

Catch Me If You Can

The F.B.I. is in my D.N.A – Carl Hanratty, Catch Me If You Can, the Muscial

I used to love the theatre when I was in high school – I loved the musical Annie and Pippin and Grease. I did a bit of performing in The King and I and Godspell.  My daughter has done a bit of musical theater as well, acting in How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) and Once Upon a Mattress.

So she suggested that we go up to see Catch Me If You Can in its pre-Broadway run in Seattle’s 5th Street Theater.  The theater itself is a renovated downtown movie house in the style of a room from the Forbidden City in Beijing, complete with a vast dragon head hanging down and suspending a giant Chinese lantern from the ceiling.

There seems to be a trend on Broadway to adapt movies to the stage and set them to music. The general story line of Catch Me If You Can is preserved: Frank Abignale, Jr is a teen from a broken home with an uncanny ability to convince people that he is someone special – Pan Am pilot, doctor, lawyer – and to forge checks.  It is this latter ability that attracts Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent with no social life but an obsession to catch Frank.

But the movie gets more involved with the mechanics of how Frank is able to fool so many people and how he passes so much bad paper. The musical is more about the emotions of this strange kid and his eventual bond with his pursuer.

The music is in keeping with the timer period – early 60s jazz club. Instead of being buried in the pit, the orchestra is arrayed along the deep back of the stage on a moveable swosh-shaped platform, all natty in evening wear. Instead of conventional flies for background, they employ a vast video screen on a scrim, which is used for everything from snowflakes to dancing girls to sing-a-long lyrics for one song.

The producers admit that things are still pretty fluid at this part of the show’s life. They are still experimenting. As such, I think they need to tighten the first act by a song or two before it’s ready for a Tony award.  There is an amazing solo in the second act by the ingénue, all alone on the stage to sing of her pain. A marvelous moment in America’s indigenous art form.

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