Last night I saw “Catch Me if You Can” starring Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit, based upon the 2002 film with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio.
I absolutely and without reservation LOVED this show. And as my readers no doubt recognize from my sometimes scathing theatre posts, you don’t get completely appreciative reviews from me often.
Telling the same story as the film (and book), “Catch Me if You Can” recounts the exploits of Frank Abignale, Jr., a notorious con man who at a very young age managed to impersonate his way into jobs as an airline pilot, an emergency room doctor, and even a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office. I won’t go into much more detail about the storyline, as I’d hate to ruin any of the surprises, but suffice it to say, it’s a fascinating true story.
Aaron Tveit is fantastic as the young con man, which I fully expected — I adored him in the phenomenal show “Next to Normal” as the teen son of the distraught married couple, and both his acting and his voice are outstanding. He brought a charm to this role equal to DiCaprio’s film portrayal, but added much more believable vulnerability and youthful joy.
Norbert Leo Butz, however, easily stole every scene in which he appeared. I’ve enjoyed him in roles from “Wicked” to “Is He Dead?” so I was pleasantly surprised to see him on the cast list when I bought tickets (yes, Tveit was what originally drew me to the show.) I was completely unprepared for how much he would “wow” me. I think Tom Hanks is a fine actor, but the stage portrayal from Butz last night was incredible. His energy, exasperation, and determination was unending. The man literally made me grin widely a dozen times throughout the show.
Musically, the show succeeds — song and dance numbers are playful, charming, and lovely. Tveit’s voice in particular always captures me, but the band really did a great job capturing (or creating) the mood of each scene. The stand-out musical number, though, was definitely Butz’s amazing “Don’t Break the Rules” halfway through the first act. I’m definitely buying the original cast recording just as soon as it’s available.
A large part of what makes “Catch Me if You Can” so enjoyable is the comfortable, playful style in which it’s presented. The two leads routinely break the so-called “Fourth Wall” by addressing the audience directly, and in fact the story itself is told as a sort of confession from Abignale, Jr. to the audience, detailing his crimes (adventures?) and explaining how he ended up in such a mess.
It felt like Tveit and Butz were literally telling ME a story, like the show was directed TO me and not simply performed in front of me. The connection between the audience and performers was strong, like we were all in on a secret together in an intimate conversation.
Side-note: I read the book years ago before the film was released, and can tell you it’s truly a remarkable story. Consider reading the full narrative of Abignale, Jr.’s exploits, as there’s quite a lot that neither the film nor the stage production can effectively capture in 2-3 hours.
“Catch Me if You Can” only recently finished previews and officially opened, and I certainly hope that the critical and public response is strong enough to keep this show onstage for a long time to come. If you’re in NYC, definitely make the time to go see this show.