So fantastic is the story that inspired the movie, and now the Broadway musical, "Catch Me If You Can," it doesn't need much dressing up.
But the song and dance stage adaptation, now on national tour and in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 West Randolph, playing through April 14, has unneeded added layers and thrown-in musical numbers that slow down the excitement of the chase of what should be a sensational tale.
Based on the hit 2002 DreamWorks film that starred Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, the over-the-top opening number sets the tone for the rest of what unfolds for two and a half hours.
"Catch Me If You Can" is the incredible true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a world-class con artist who passed himself off as a doctor, a lawyer, and a jet pilot, all before the age of 21. With straight-arrow FBI agent Carl Hanratty on Frank's trail, the stage story takes audiences on a jet-setting, cat-and-mouse chase, as a jazzy, swinging '60s score keeps this adventure in constant motion.
In the end, Agent Hanratty learns he and Frank aren't so very different after all, and Frank finds out what happens when love catches up to a man on the run.
As you might expect, much of the story and focus rests on the shoulders of Stephen Anthony as young Frank and actor Merritt David Janes in the agent role.
However, this production does not serve their abilities. This touring engagement follows the recent Broadway run and both of these men are talented and capable but not able to mold the hollow material they have been handed.
For example, the opening number, "Live in Living Color," is intended to be big and splashy to give a glimpse into the mastermind of the imaginative kid able to fool so many. But it uses the distracting ill-fitting premise of a variety show, and a very odd sidestep dance choreography, to invite audiences into world of con trickery that served Frank and his mission.
"Catch Me If You Can" is based on Frank Abagnale's New York Times bestselling autobiography, published by Broadway Paperbacks, in addition to the movie version of the same name directed by Steven Spielberg with screenplay by Jeff Nathanson and book by Abagnale, Jr.
There are certainly quite a few scenes left out from the film version for this production, with book written by Terrence McNally, score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, choreography by Jerry Mitchell and direction by Jack O'Brien.
The scenic design, by David Rockwell, is very limited with heavy use of a computer generated graphic screen backdrop. The costume design is by five-time Tony Award winner William Ivey Long and lighting design is by Tony Award winner Kenneth Posner and sound by Peter McBoyle.
Dominic Fortuna does a nice job playing Frank Abagnale Sr., the father figure for the story's anti-hero main character. He's well versed in doing celebrity impersonations and manages to slip in a few during his musical number moments.
Actress Aubrey Mae Davis, who plays the southern belle love interest Brenda, doesn't quite hit her notes for a final big number called "Fly, Fly Away." But this song comes near the end. And by this time, I too was ready to fly, fly away.
Tickets are $18 to $85 at (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com or catchmeontour.com.