April 22, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>Steven Spielberg week on Broadway continues:  after War Horse, the director’s next film, we have CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, based on his 2002 comedy-drama (that film was written by Jeff Nathanson).   Spielberg’s movie may have been the sleekest entertainment of his career, a near-perfect piece of craft that boasted two great star performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks (not to mention supporting work from Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner, among others), a stylish score by John Williams, and a memorably witty animated credits sequence.  The new musical, with a book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, is a sadly wasted opportunity.  The problems start with the show’s concept:  the action begins at the moment when Frank Abagnale Jr (Aaron Tveit) is about to be arrested by his longtime nemesis FBI Agent Hanratty (Norbert Leo Butz), and then stops when Frank decides to tell us the story of his life staged like numbers in a 1960s TV variety series.  This gimmick becomes increasingly tiresome as the musical goes along, particularly when things start to get postmodern in Act II.  As in the film, we follow Frank as he moves from conning banks to impersonating airline pilots, ER doctors and attorneys, all the while coping with the break-up of his parents’ marriage and particularly the downward slide of his father (Tom Wopat).  But while Spielberg’s style made everything in the film glide by, the unmemorable songs here just serve to underline what we already know and interrupt the action.  Star quality is lacking, too:  where DiCaprio’s typical intensity brought an undercurrent of desperation to Frank’s incessant cons, Tveit comes across as a lightweight (he could as well be playing the male ingenue in Anything Goes).  Butz comes closest to capturing the right tone, and his one big number “Don’t Break the Rules” is the only time the show really comes to life, although Kerry Butler, in the Amy Adams part, has a solid late 2d act solo.  In a show where effortless expertise was crucial, everything here feels put together from a kit; on stage, Catch Me If You Can doesn’t inspire much of a chase.  (Neil Simon Theatre)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."