I went to see the play version of Catch Me If You Can recently. I can’t compare it to the movie(s), which I haven’t seen, or the book they were both based on, but it makes an excellent musical.

catch me if you can

Catch me If You Can is based on the real life of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a con artist who, among other things, passed as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer–all before he was twenty-one years old. (He didn’t actually fly and airplane, or work on any patients–he was very good at delegating and working in supervisory positions.) He started these impersonations at the age of sixteen, and it’s really remarkable what he convinced people of.

The musical was remarkable–a pretty good sized cast, and a bunch of ensemble characters–a total of six men and nine women, though there was some overlap between minor characters and the ensemble. The men had some costume changes, but the women–they were high school students, nurses, stewardesses (this was before they were flight attendants), go-go dancers, show girls, southern belles, baseball players, and more. It was quite impressive as they came out and disappeared and reappeared as something else.

The story itself is hilarious, acknowledging the audience in a tongue-and-cheek sort of way, the whole play being Frank explaining his life story–it made the experience almost interactive, the audience aware the characters are acting, and the actors playing to the audience. After all, con artists want an audience, even if they don’t want people to see through their masks.

Even though he was unquestionably a criminal, I found myself with some sympathy for Frank pretty early on in the play, and it only grew as they play progressed. Which got me thinking about why we like con artists. Generally, though there are exceptions, we don’t like violent criminals. So why do we celebrate ones like Frank?

I think it’s because they achieve so much–and face it, fooling people into believing he’d qualified for some difficult jobs is impressive, especially since he managed to avoid doing the work that might have killed someone. He’s daring–perhaps too much so–and charming, and clever, and a quick-thinker. Even if we don’t admire the ends those traits are turned to, we admire the traits themselves.

What do you think? Do you admire the clever criminal, who uses words instead of violence to steal?



About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

3 responses »

  1. Marcia says:

    Ummmm…not really. I have trouble with dishonesty, in most forms. On rare occasions, if the con is aimed at someone who deserves to be “taken,” I can enjoy it a bit. But thieves, liars, and manipulators so seldom do it for altruistic reasons. I saw the movie version of this, and while I found the story quite interesting, I was NOT enamored of Abagnale. This is the reason why the third On The Edge book was my least favorite of the series. I just don’t like con artists. I did like the movie “The Sting,” so there are exceptions. But then Newman & Redford could charm anyone, pretty much, and the guy they “stung” deserved it. Plus, the way they worked it out was very clever. But alas, mostly I think con artists are cheap crooks and not anyone I admire. A cut above violent criminals, sure, but still sleazy to me. Just my own take, of course, though the play sounds good.

    • caitlinstern says:

      There was some particular effort to get the audience to like Frank, I think–details of his life that were pretty sad, and he didn’t seem like he was trying to hurt people, you know?

      But I agree–fictional con artists, who hurt no one real, are better.

      • Marcia says:

        I don’t like ’em doing it in my fiction, either. I had the hardest time liking the couple in that 3rd Edge book (my mind refuses to function…Kaldar and Audrey, that’s it.) It was better when they had a reason to be doing it, and yeah, the bad guys deserved it, but they stole from regular people along the way to make it happen, and that made me mad. Just because they were “nameless” victims didn’t make stealing from them any nicer.

        I don’t know. I just have trouble with phoney people. I wouldn’t have liked the Sting, either, except that the only scam we had to watch was against someone who deserved it. I’m way too idealistic for my own good. I mean, I KNOW better, and that these things happen, but I don’t like it. It’s not funny when you are the one being scammed, and I think I just identify more with the victims than the con artists.

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