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Catch Me grasps a bit

The Dunk heads north for much hyped show

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The 5th Avenue Theatre hosted the world premiere of Catch Me If You Can, a Broadway-bound musical based on the true-life story of one of the best con artists of the modern age. The story was a book and then a movie that stared Leonardo DeCaprio and Tom Hanks. Now it’s a musical that’s more about the detective obsessed with catching his man than the criminal, Frank Abagnale, Jr., on the run.

Abagnale, Jr., conned his way into jobs as a doctor, lawyer and Pan Am pilot all before he was 21. This 1960s based show pits Abagnale against Carl Hanratty, a mid-career FBI agent who comes alive when assigned to catch this charming swindler whose check-forging skills netted him more than $2.8 million before he was finally nabbed. He later made more than that as a special agent for the Treasury department and then as a security consultant to banks and financial centers around the world.

But really the anchor of this show is Hanratty, played by Norbert Leo Butz, most recently seen on Broadway in the revival of David Mamet’s Speed the Plow, and last seen in Seattle on the national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a performance that won him a Tony, as well as awards from Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and the Drama League. In Catch Me if You Can, Butz is amazing as the Captain Ahab of the story, with Abagnale (Aaron Tveit) playing the role of the whale that always seems to get away.

Rounding out the standout cast is Tom Wopat, who is still likely best known to the unwashed masses as Luke Duke on the original Dukes of Hazzard. Wopat, now a Broadway juggernaut, is amazing in the role of the con artist’s father.

While the story was almost too good to believe, the fact that it is true — for the most part — makes for a compelling theater experience. But the show still needs a little bit of work before it hits the Great White Way.

The show drags in parts, a few seconds here and a few seconds there, and the ending needs some restacking of the script. There also isn’t a WOW number in the show. The songs were clever and progressed the story, but there just wasn’t a signature song.

All that said, it’s a good show that will get better as the march eastward retools the script for the big time. It will be interesting to witness this show in three or four years to see how it has changed from its premiere, much the same way theatergoers locally noticed changes in Hairspray and Shrek as they went through similar tracks.

[The 5th Avenue Theatre, through Aug. 16, 1308 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, 888.5TH.4TIX,]

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