The True Story of a Real Fake

Frank W. Abagnale Jr., alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Jonjo, was one of the most daring con-men, forgers and escape artists in history.  In his brief, but notorious, criminal career, Abagnale donned a pilots uniform and co-piloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over$2.5 million in forged checks, all before he was 21. Known by the police in 26 foreign countries and all fifty states as “The Skywayman” , Abagnale lived a sumptuous life on the lam…until the law caught up with him. Now recognized as the nation’s leading authority on financial foul play, Abagnale is a charming  rogue whose hilarious, stranger-than-fiction international escapades, and ingenious escapes, including one from an airplane, make Catch Me If You Can an irresistible tale of deceit.

Oddly enough, he was actually a teenage high school dropout.  He tells of his years of impersonations, swindles, and felonies with humor and the kind of confidence that enabled him to pull off his  poseur performances. “Modesty is not one of my virtues  and at the time, virtue was not one of my virtues,” he boasts. “”But, I needed money to woo the girls, and I loved the challenge and the ego boost that came with playing important men.”  The culmination of this engaging tale is that Abagnale was  released from prison after five years on the condition that he help the government write fraud prevention programs.

The incredible story was made into a highly successful film directed by Steven Spielberg, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.  The Broadway musical is based on the film which was based on the original book.  The musical was initially presented in Seattle, Washington; a similar tryout-method used by the composer’s first successful musical, Hairspray. After encouraging out-of-town revues,  the play premiered on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre.  It was warmly received by the New  York audience and was the recipient of four Tony nominations: Best Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical, Best Sound Design and Best Orchestration.  It won in 2011 for Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical. It was also nominated for 6 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Orchestrations.  It won the award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.

Reviews stated that “Catch Me If You Can is a sheer delight from the poignant and brilliant book by Terrence McNally to the sexy but character-driven choreography  by Jerry Mitchell to the perfect sets by David Rockwell to the spot-on costumes by Willian Ivey Long, to Kenneth Posner’s marvelous lighting all tied together by the superlative direction of Jack O’Brien which is seamless in weaving together drama, comedy, dance, acting, genuine scenes of pathos and casual banter with the audience and orchestra”.
Catch Me If You Can is just fun theatre from the opening musical number to the surprise ending. I can’t remember when I’ve had that much fun at the theatre.”