“Catch Me If You Can” is the fourth of five new musicals on Broadway this season to have begun as a hit film. As with the others — “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “Elf” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” — this stage adaptation failed to find great favor with the critics. This tale of a con artist on the run from the FBI made for a fast-paced film from Steven Spielberg in 2002 starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
The pedigree of both the performers and the behind-the-scenes talent this time around is equally top-notch. Playing the part of the G-man is 2005 Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) with Aaron Tveit as the crook and Tony nominee Tom Wopat as his dipso dad. The score is by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman who won a Tony in 2003 for another screen-to-stage tuner “Hairspray.” The Tony-winning director (Jack O’Brien) and nominated choreographer (Jerry Mitchell) from that smash hit are also at work here. And the book is by four-time Tony champ Terrence McNally who has both Book wins for other adaptations (“The Kiss of the Spider Woman,” 1993; “Ragtime,” 1998) and Best Play prizes (“Love! Valor! Compassion!,” 1995; “Master Class,” 1996).
Overall, the reviews were just so-so with most making mention that the show had a lot of style but little substance. As Ben Brantley (New York Times) wrote, “Though the real-life story that inspired this show is full of elaborate deceptions and corkscrew twists, you will never at any point be confused by its theatrical incarnation. Or roused or touched or more than mildly entertained, for about 90 percent of the time.”
AP critic Mark Kennedy concurred: “There’s something here that just isn’t connecting, that smacks a bit of a color-by-numbers musical. A large reason may be the role of the hero, who is, after all, a cipher — a faker, a fraud, a man who is whatever we assume him to be. Beneath the pilot’s uniform or doctor’s white coat, there’s little but a smile and a wink. ‘Blink your eyes and I’ll be gone,’ he sings in one song. And he’s right: He leaves nothing that resonates behind.”
And so did Elysa Gardner (USA Today) who said, “Norbert Leo Butz is predictably marvelous as Carl Hanratty, the schlumpy federal agent who stalks and eventually nails the underage schemer, though not as handily as Butz walks away with the show. Don’t blame Tveit, the square-jawed young actor who plays Frank Jr., at least not entirely. A robust singer and fluid dancer, Tveit exudes the kind of slick charm that surely helped Abagnale finagle his way into diverse fields, not to mention considerable fortune. But that charm wears thin over 2½ hours in which Frank Jr. and his exploits are so dominant.”