‘Catch Me’ at the Grand

Sometimes, the musicals that I enjoy most are not widely loved. I love them for their original Broadway casts or the music, and they get slammed for their plot and scene design. Or the musical wins Tony awards but isn’t successful at the box office. “Catch Me If You Can” is one of those musicals, so I was stoked when it came to the Grand Opera House last month.
The musical is based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who ran away from home at the age of 16, became a pilot for Pan American Airlines, then a doctor, then a lawyer, wrote bad checks and conned a lot of people out of $1.4 million. He is chased all over the world by Detective Carl Hanratty, who wants to put him behind bars for years. Frank uses fake names in every job, which turns out to really hurt him when he finds the girl of his dreams, Brenda Strong.
I was ready to be disappointed by the tour because the original Broadway cast was so spectacular. Aaron Tveit portrayed Frank on Broadway, which is one of the most difficult tenor parts in a few years because of the range and the dance intensity. Norbert Leo Butz portrayed Hanratty, and won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.
The first song, “Live in Living Color”, had me even more worried. Stephen Anthony, who portrayed Frank in the tour, cracked about three times during the song and it did not go unnoticed. Luckily for the audience, he just used that song to warm up and was delightful for the rest of the show. Merritt David Janes, Hanratty in this cast, was not quite as eager to dance around the stage as Butz had once been, but was still fantastic in the role.
Apparently this show took an extraordinary amount of time to move into the Grand. The set was a scaffold that held the band and could also be used as a playing space, located directly in front of a huge projection screen. Besides that utilitarian set, the other set pieces were extremely minimal: a bed here, a bar there. Each would get pushed on for a scene and removed when it was over. I’m not normally a fan of such minimalist scenic designs, but it was perfect for this show. Because projection screens are so much cheaper than hiring a crew of people to build a huge, elaborate set, a lot of shows are utilizing them, whether or not it fits with the style of the show. The use of the projection screen in this tour was perfect. There was no room for a “proper” set because of the sheer number of huge dance sequences in this show, which made the perfected use of a screen imperative.
My favorite scenic choice was this: whenever all of the detectives were together in their office, the lighting changed and everything looked like it was in black and white like in old detective movies. All of the actors spoke like the characters in old detective movies too, which was pretty neat.
I’m really glad that I went to see this show, even with my original qualms. Of all the shows I’ve seen it was one of my favorites, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who gets the chance. Looks like me and “Catch Me if You Can” are stuck together, which is strange but true.