I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the movie-turned-musical phenomenon that seems to be taking over Broadway. It seems a bit contrived. Granted, I haven’t seen “Legally Blonde: The Musical” or “Bring It On: The Musical” (which I’ve heard is surprisingly good) but the few that I have seen haven’t thrilled me.
This was my mindset when traveling to Fair Park this week to watch Dallas Summer Musical’s opening show of the 2013 season, “Catch Me If You Can.” However, what I remembered over the next two-plus hours is why so many books are turned into movies, and movies into musicals and vice versa (the latter is a trend I can get on board with; Les Mis, anyone?). The reason is that great stories are compelling in almost any format.
And the story of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. and FBI agent Carl Hanratty, who tracks Abagnale and, eventually, catches him, is a great story.
What makes the story great are not the can-you-believe-it scenarios of Abagnale cashing hot checks at hundreds of New York City banks or posing as an Pan-Am pilot and a pediatrician (though those stories make for some fun song-and-dance numbers). It’s the dynamic between Abagnale and Hanratty, the former a kid (he did all of this by the age of 21) running from his broken family and desperately hoping to put it back together, and the latter a workaholic stick-in-the-mud whose life revolves around the bureau and, thus, finding Abagnale.
If you love well-choreographed numbers belted out by the cast, this musical has quite a few of them. The ballads are fewer, and the best are sung by Hanratty’s Merritt David Janes, whose “Man Inside the Clues” was the loveliest of the show. The set choices — the orchestra situated across the stage in a wave, with “scenes” projected onto a large screen behind the instrumentalists — are a bit distracting but also interesting in terms of approach.
The implausible father-son relationship Abagnale and Hanratty build over the course of their cat-and-mouse game is what makes this show worth watching. Both Janes and Abagnale’s Stephen Anthony are convincing in their roles, making the audience root for both the “bad guy” and the “good guy,” wonder which is which and ultimately realize, as Abagnale and Hanratty do, that perhaps it’s never that simple.
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