Apart from its one monumental hit, 2010-2011 was actually a rather disappointing theater year. Part of the problem was that Book of Mormon was such a phenomenon that it completely overshadowed every other musical that season. Still, Catch Me If You Can might have made it if it had been just a little stronger.
The cast was certainly its biggest asset—Aaron Tveit and Norbert Leo Butz both gave stunning star performances, and Tom Wopat as the hero’s father and Kerry Butler as his love interest offered strong support. The show also had the asset of a solid story foundation—like the movie it was based on, it drew on the fascinating real-life story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., perhaps the most brilliant con-man and impostor of all time. But while the book tells its story well, it’s short on effective humor, leading to an overall feel too serious and heavy for the kind of show this is supposed to be.
The score is also somewhat problematic. It does feature about a half-dozen fantastic songs, particularly Butz’s showstopping “Don’t Break the Rules” and Butler’s gorgeous ballad “Fly, Fly Away”. But while the rest of the score is pleasant, and it makes some clever use of pastiche (such as setting the parents’ not-quite-love-song “Don’t Be a Stranger” to a bossa nova, or making Butz’s self-examining “The Man Behind the Clues” sound like a piano bar torch ballad), it’s still fairly ordinary, with too many empty production numbers that fill the stage with chorus girls but don’t actually accomplish anything. It’s kind of a shame the show didn’t do better, especially since we’ve seen plenty of much worse shows that had greater success, but I’m not sure I can honestly claim it deserved anything else.