Catch Me If You Can

source: wikipedia


Catch Me If You Can is a musical with a libretto by Terrence McNally and a theatrical score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It follows the story of con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr.[1] A majority of the plot is borrowed from the 2002 film of the same name, which in turn was based on Abagnale’s 1980 autobiography.

After a tryout in Seattle in 2009, Catch Me If You Can opened at Broadway‘s Neil Simon Theatre in April 2011. The production received four Tony Awards nominations, including one for Best Musical, winning Best Actor in a Musical for Norbert Leo Butz.[2]


Act I

In the 1960s, Frank Abagnale, Jr., a young con man, is cornered at the Miami International Airport by FBI Agent Carl Hanratty and his team. Hanratty asserts that there’s no use in running, as his men are trained to shoot. Before his arrest, Frank pleads Hanratty to allow him to inform the people in the airport why they’re beating at him, though Hanratty only wants to know how he passed the bar exam in New Orleans to pose as a lawyer. Frank promises he will tell him all his secrets if they allow him to tell his story “Live in Living Color”. A reluctant Hanratty agrees.

In a home in New Rochelle, New York, Frank lives with his parents Frank Abagnale, Sr., and Paula Abagnale. His parents met in Paris, France, during World War II. Paula was performing at a dinner, and noticed Frank, Sr. among the soldiers in the audience (“The Pinstripes Are All That They See”), marrying him soon after. Due to money shortages, Frank is unable to attend private school, nonetheless wearing his school jacket to public school. He is taunted there as looking like a substitute teacher, which gives Frank an idea; a few days later, the principal informs his parents that Frank has been teaching French class at the school while their teacher is absent.

One day, Frank walks home from school to find his mother dancing with one of Frank, Sr.’s friends. She pleads him not to tell Frank, Sr., but a distraught Frank is soon in court, with Paula and Frank, Sr. fighting over custody of him. Frank decides to run away (“Someone Else’s Skin”). He soon learns how to create fake checks, cashing them at banks across the country and successfully conning millions of dollars.

While entering a New York City hotel, Frank notices several attractive women, all of them stewardesses; he decides to become a pilot. After creating a fake ID card, he finds a co-pilot job at Pan American World Airways. The workers express the joys of a life in the skies (“Jet Set”). Hanratty finds several fake checks on his desk in Washington, D. C.; he and Agents Branton, Dollar, and Cod assigned to track down the writer of these fake checks (“Live in Living Color [Reprise]”). Hanratty gives a word of wisdom to whoever wrote the checks: “Don’t Break the Rules”.

Frank is enjoying his pilot job, remembering how his dad always said that “women love a man in uniform”, as “The Pinstripes Are All That They See”. Feeling homesick, he goes to visit Frank, Sr., upset to find out that he had to close his store to save money. Frank offers him several checks to improve his financial situation, but Frank, Sr. disagrees, believing that Frank should be happy with his success and not worry about him (“Butter Outta Cream”). Meanwhile, Hanratty sorts through leftover items from the hotel Frank had just stayed at, looking for “The Man Inside the Clues”. Hanratty tracks Frank to a hotel room in Los Angeles, but Frank escapes after tricking Hanratty into believing that Frank is a Secret Service agent named Barry Allen.

Frank attends a holiday party for the airport staff (“Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year”), but ultimately feels lonely, calling Hanratty on a pay phone for comfort. Hanratty, realizing the culprit is just a kid, reveals that he, too, has no one to spend Christmas with (“My Favorite Time of Year”).

Act II

Frank comes across another staff party, this time for a hospital. When asked what his job is by one of the doctors, Frank lies that he is a pediatrician at the Death Valley Children’s Hospital, working with “snot-nosed kids” and calling himself “Dr. Connors”. Feeling sorry for him, the doctor finds him a job at the Atlanta General Hospital, surrounded by nurses who are ready to take the “Doctor’s Orders”.

Hanratty is still searching for Frank, going through missing person reports (“Live in Living Color (reprise)”). He eventually finds the house of Paula and her new husband, questioning her on the whereabouts of Frank. She tells him not to worry, as does Frank, Sr. Both plead with Frank: “Don’t Be a Stranger”. While talking to Frank, Sr. at a bar, Hanratty realizes that both men had overbearing fathers (“Little Boy Be a Man”).

Meanwhile, Frank has fallen in love with one of the nurses, Brenda Strong, though she finds him intimidating. He tells her that he has seen the “Seven Wonders” of the world, but that none of them compare to her beauty. Brenda brings Frank to meet her family in New Orleans, where he lies that he’s a lawyer, a doctor, and a Lutheran to impress her father. Her father does not believe him, but gives him permission to be with Brenda after Frank admits how much he loves her. Brenda’s parents, Carol and Roger Strong, tell Frank that they have a “family sing-along” each night after dinner; they turn on the television to the song “(Our) Family Tree”, after which Frank proposes to Brenda and she accepts.

Shortly before the engagement ceremony, Frank discovers that Hanratty has figured out where he is. He admits the truth to Brenda, telling her his real name: Frank William Abagnale, Jr. He promises to return after escaping from Hanratty. Just as he leaves, Hanratty enters, asking Brenda where Frank went. She laments that she loves Frank and would never tell on him (“Fly, Fly Away”), but is tricked into doing so shortly thereafter.

The story returns to the opening scene, where Frank is cornered in the airport. The agents escort passengers out of the area, as Frank threatens to run. Hanratty states that he doesn’t want to use force, but would have to if Frank ran. Hanratty informs Frank that his father is dead; a drunken Frank, Sr. had fallen down stairs at the bar, breaking his neck. Realizing he has nobody, Frank gives in to Hanratty (“Good-Bye”). Although sentenced to fifteen years in prison, Frank is released after seven. Shortly after his release, he is hired by Hanratty and the FBI to track down others who committed crimes like his. Hanratty and Frank embrace, noting that their partnership is “Strange But True”. Before the curtain closes, Hanratty makes Frank keep his promise, telling him how he passed the New Orleans bar exam. Frank tells a surprised Hanratty that he didn’t cheat: “I studied.”

Music Marc Shaiman
Lyrics Marc Shaiman
Scott Wittman
Book Terrence McNally
Basis 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, and 1980 autobiography by Frank Abagnale, Jr.
Productions 2009 Seattle tryout
2011 Broadway
2012 Non-Equity tour

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