The truest measure of a show is often how it leaves you feeling. Sometimes, a show has got its work cut out for itself—taking someone from an incredibly rotten mood to elation (or deep thought, depending on the material). It’s no easy feat. And, yet, that’s what Catch Me If You Can was up against for me since I had gotten lost along the drive to see it and slid in a few minutes before the opening.
I was not a happy camper, but Catch Me the musical is just as spirited, flirty, and fun as its origination film, and NextStop has produced a joyful show that flows with ease. I left in a good mood. Success!
For those who don’t remember, Catch Me If You Can is the story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Matthew Hirsh), who ran away from home as a teen and became a grifter in the early 1960s after his parents divorced. He impersonated, most famously, a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer all the while forging checks. He served a short prison stint and then began consulting with the FBI and banks to help them better understand fraud. His story became a book (1980), then a movie (2002), and most recently a musical (2011)—all of which center prominently on Abagnale’s relationship with Carl Hanratty (based on Joseph Shea), a no-nonsense, humorless FBI agent who collared Abagnale in 1969.
While this is Abagnale’s story, the show belongs to Hanratty (Russell Rinker), who, almost unknowingly, deadpans some of the funniest lines and is, just generally, a likeable guy whose earnestness endears him to the audience right from his entrance one Christmas eve. He’s always just one step behind Abagnale, but takes it in stride with a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race mentality that pays off. Abagnale tires and starts to make mistakes, but Hanratty? He’s always on point.
Rinker is wonderful watch. He and Hirsh make a great team, buoying the show with an avuncular bromance in an era before the bromance. Back when landlines were still in use.
Catch Me tells you it’s ending from its opening scene, so there isn’t a lot of mystery; instead, the show’s success depends on a journey with nooks and crannies and side turns to keep you amused. Set up like a 1960’s variety show, you do stay amused. And engaged. It’s hard not to when a big band sits on stage, portioned off just enough, and dancers enter stage right and left nearly each time the music cues. Above them hang colorful paper lanterns of all shapes. Everything is sleek and classy and feels just a bit like the jet-set age of Pan Am’s heydays. The set, alone, is worth a smile as much as the exuberance of the showgirls (Carolyn Burke, Corinne Holland, Hannah Jennens, Alexis Krey, Ariana Kruszewski, Mackenzie Newbury, Melrose Pyne, and Patricia “Pep” Targete), who shimmy and shake in way mini, mini-skirts that feel appropriate. It’s all a part of the time.
The dramatic narrative comes with Abagnale’s father, Frank Sr. (Doug S. Sanford), and mother, Paula (Carolyn Burke) and his eventual love, Brenda (Mackenzie Newbury). Sanford is kinda slimy as the connish older Abagnale, who falls into trouble with the IRS before succumbing to alcoholism after Paula leaves him. He’s a sad character hiding behind a façade of confidence—a façade his son masters with steely precision. Newbury easily has the best voice in the cast, and it’s on full display in “Fly, Fly Away,” which stands out in a show whose music flows from one song to the next with nary a break.
Catch Me If You Can
closes October 9, 2016
Details and tickets
Hanratty’s compadres are hapless agents who provide him with vital assists throughout the chase. Agent Johnny Dollar (Edward C. Nagel) is a young upstart with good aim while Agents Bill Cod (Michael Reid) and Todd Branton (Ruben Vellekoop) are a couple of jokester that remind Hanratty that life exists outside the bureau, a lesson that helps him understand Abagnale. Vellekoop doubles as Mr. Strong, Brenda’s dad, in funny dinner scene with Patricia “Pep” Targete as Brenda’s mother Carol. They sing “(Our) Family Tree” while inculcating Abagnale into their southern way of life, which includes some heavy petting from Carol.
“I was the Johnny Appleseed of fraud,” Abagnale says at one point, and it’s also a fitting description of this show. A lighthearted fable built on very real events with serious consequences.
Solid direction and wonderful music—shout-out to the orchestra, led by Conductor Elisa Altman Rosman—with a lively cast that seems to enjoy itself make Catch Me If You Can a joy ride.
Catch Me If You Can . Book by Terrence McNally. Music by Marc Shaiman. Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. Directed by Evan Hoffman. Music Directed by Elisa Rosman. Choreographed by Rachel Dolan. Featuring Carolyn Burke, Matthew Hirsh, Corinne Holland, Hannah Jennens, Alexis Krey, Ariana Kruszewski, Edward C. Nagel, Mackenzie Newbury, Melrose Pyne, Michael Reid, Russell Rinker, Doug S. Sanford, Patricia “Pep” Targete, and Ruben Vellekoop. Production: Logan Floyd, Assistant Choreographer; Evan Hoffman, Scenic Design; Brittany Shemuga, Lighting Design; Reid May, Sound Design; Julie Cray Leong, Costume Design; Kathryn Dooley, Stage Manager; Laura Moody, Assistant Stage Manager; Sierra Pearson and Karla Gill, Deck Crew; Hannah Rosman, Spotlight Operator; Joshua Redford, Live Sound Mixer; Camille Petrillo, Scenic Charge. Orchestra: Elisa Altman Rosman, Piano and Conductor; Bobby McCoy and Amy Conley, Keyboard; Paul Scimonelli and Cyndy Elliott, Bass; Mitch Bassman, Allen Howe, Gwyn Jones, and Lindsay Williams, Reeds; Paul Weiss, Trumpet; Bill Wright and Scott Fridy, Trombone; and Rick Peralta, Guitar. Produced by NextStop Theatre Company . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.