Catch Me If You Can: Production quality more memorable than forgettable froth of material

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Orpheus Theatre

Catch Me If You Can
Book by Terrence McNally
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Orpheus Musical Theatre Society
Reviewed by Iris Winston

The Catch 22 of Catch Me If You Can is that the apparently innocent charm of the anti-hero/con artist is at odds with the reality of his crooked early life. It is also even more difficult to fit the story of the imposter/forger/thief into an upbeat and believable musical than it was to give jolly versions of other con artists in such musicals as The Producers or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale Jr. and the 2002 Stephen Spielberg movie of the same name, Catch me If You Can adeptly turns a potentially serious storyline into fluff boosted by a series of big but forgettable production numbers. The music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the pair responsible for the musical Hairspray, evoke the 1960s. This was the era when the teenage runaway posed successfully as an airline co-pilot, a pediatrician and a lawyer and forged millions of dollars in cheques —before being run to earth by FBI agent Carl Hanratty. The book by Terrence McNally delivers the ‘show’ of Abagnale Jr’s life, tongue in cheek. Fortunately, the self-mocking style overcomes the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction reality of the man who eventually reinvented himself one more time as an FBI consultant on fraud and allows enjoyment of the moment on stage independent of factual analysis.

The Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production of Catch me if You Can, which premiered and closed on Broadway in 2011, like the original, is set up as an episodic variety show hosted by Frank Abagnale Jr with the orchestra, under the baton of Wendy Berkelaar, on stage, flanked by two curved staircases (perfect for displaying showgirls). As he tells the story of his life, supported by two father figures (his biological parent and the dogged FBI agent connected to him in the style of The Fugitive movie and TV series) he loses touch with the present and is surprised that the FBI is still waiting to arrest him at the end of his tale.

With its heavy reliance on big dance numbers, Catch Me If You Can, is a happy choice for a director whose first calling was as a choreographer and Debbie Guilbeault (with great support from costume designer Jenn Donnelly and her team) concentrates on the spectacle end of a storyline that seems somewhat forced into the format of a traditional musical.

Andy Allen-McCarthy has fun with the lead role of the young con artist, moving gracefully and singing powerfully, while Rob Henderson delivers a fine contrast as the loner-FBI agent, at the other end of the hunted/hunter chain.

Other standouts in a solid ensemble production are Joyce Landry as the Southern belle wife of Frank’s one-time fiancée, Brenda, (a pleasant performance from Kate Boone), and Trish Cleyn, as his mother, for the quality of her singing voice.

In general, the high-energy Orpheus production of Catch Me If You Can is fluff, with a touch of Bob Fosse-type choreography, beautifully served.

Catch Me If You Can continues at Centrepointe Theatre to  March 19.

Director/choreographer: Debbie Guilbeault

Musical director: Wendy Berkelaar

Set: Sally McIntyre

Lighting: Amber Hood

Sound: John Cybanski

Costumes: Jenn Donnelly

 

Cast:

Frank Abagnale Jr……………………Andy Allen-McCarthy

Carl Hanratty…………………………Rob Henderson

Frank Abagnale Sr……………………Jason Swan

Agent Branton……………………….Sean Brennan

Agent Cod……………………………Blair Laugher

Agent Dollar…………………………Adam Moscoe

Roger Strong…………………………Jonathan Harris

Paula Abagnale………………………Trish Cleyn

Brenda Strong……………………….Kate Boone

Carol Strong…………………………Joyce Landry

Cheryl Ann………………………… .Stefania Wheelhouse

 

Ensemble: Johanne Boisvenu-Henry, Samantha Clarke, Jillian Conway, DeNeige Dojack, Gord Guest, Evan Huus, Chris O’Gorman, Matthew Penner, Sam Pomerant, Trenton Poulin, Trisha Presley, Mirana Rambelo, Julia Redfern, Katie Shapiro, Nolla Timmins, Nina Vuleta.

 

Orchestra:

Conductor…………………………..Wendy Berkelaar

Reeds………………………………..Mike Mullin, Dave Renaud, Mike Tremblay

Trumpets……………………………Michelle Ash, Nicholas Dyson

Trombone…………………………..Mike Estabrooiks

Keyboards…………………………..Mark Ferguson, Keilina Gehrels, Robin Pitre

Guitar……………………………….Pete Forêt

Bass…………………………………Tom McMahon


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