Catch Me If You Can: Well Worth Catching
Reviewed by Capital Critics Circle
March 18, 2017 Saturday at 5:04 pm
Guest Critic: Jim Murchison
Frank Abagnale Jr is a famous con man who eluded police authorities for years. He is well known because of the film version of Catch Me If You Can and for his books including one appropriately titled The Art of The Steal. This play with book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman is largely true. It is at times a game show, Film Noir, and a night club act, with a hint of Dragnet thrown in. It is necessary to be as chameleonic as it’s antihero. While the tale doesn’t have the depth or social impact of some tales it is an entertaining story of a fascinating con man who evolved into someone better and used his talent for artifice for a better purpose.
The Production is both directed and choreographed by Debbie Guilbeault with confidence. When a team is well coached you can tell by the way they buy in, and the cast step confidently into their roles physically and sell it. Strong choruses are a trademark of Orpheus and Wendy Berkelaar ensures that Catch Me If You Can is no exception.
Sally McIntyre’s set hugs the omnipresent Frank Bagnale Jr Orchestra who are centre stage for the entire show. The musicians have staircases on either side of them that escalate to a catwalk. Stretching out is a fish eye lens rendition of the New York skyline with pockets of lights representing the city that never quite sleeps.
Scene changes are handled by bringing on an occasional set piece from left or right of the stage and placing them in pockets of light. There are some mood and time changes provided by Amber Hood’s fine lighting that take us from scarlet sunsets to dark nights and shades in between.
I usually attend productions on opening night but the Wednesday night performance was still going strong and featured solid performances. The male ensemble was particularly notable led by the leading duo of Andy Allen-McCarthy as Frank Abagnale Jr. and Rob Henderson as FBI agent Carl Hanratty.
Allen-McCarthy exudes confidence and charm as the young con man Abagnale. He weaved his way through the action gracefully and fluidly. Sometimes he appeared to almost step out of an amorphous vapour to deliver a coda to a scene you didn’t even realize he was in. In contrast Rob Henderson plays Inspector Hanratty as dogmatic, dependable and determined. He has none of the flash of his young prey but he is honest and likeable in a rugged workmanlike way.
It can’t be overstated that this is the most important pair of the play and if you aren’t sold on their relationship the play wouldn’t work, but they are terrific actors with fine voices and a great chemistry. They are the cat and the mouse and know their roles, conveying their commitment to the game and the respect they have for each other in a way that reaches across the footlights and out into the audience.
Another important couple is Frank Jr’s parents who are also strong. Frank Abagnale Sr as played by Jason Swan is a dreamer, conman and a drunk always shooting for the stars but getting caught up in the branches of the tree of life or plummeting into the bog. He performs every pitfall with the false bravado of a man that is trying too hard to believe his own lies. His wife Paula on the other hand is a slinky french seductress that wants more and is not afraid to flirt her way to success at the expense of her family.
Kate Boone also takes a wonderful turn as Brenda Strong, the small town nurse and Frank Jr’s only serious love interest. She has a wholesome humility and her vocal solo is really lovely. The entire cast is strong with powerful opening and closing numbers. There are a couple of times when the female chorus seemed to be struggling with pitch and tone.
This is a true ensemble show. On the surface it may be a lark, but it is an interesting allegory to the way society values flash and rhetoric over substance and credentials. We live in an age where personality is valued more than honesty and Catch Me If You Can is a reminder of how easy it is to be tricked by someone who reads what you desire and feeds you what you need to hear. That being said Orpheus knows you want to be entertained and they give you what you want; and there is nothing wrong with that.
Frank Abagnale Jr.
Frank Abagnale Sr.
Reeds Mike Mullin, Dave Renaud, Mike Tremblay
Trumpets Michelle Ash, Nicholas Dyson
Trombone Mike Estabrooks
Keyboards Mark Ferguson, Kellina Gehrels, Robin Pitre
Guitar Pete Foret
Bass Tom McMahon
Percussion Pierre Huneault
Artistic Director & Choreographer
(A) Val Keenleyside
Steven K. Jones
(@) Ashley Cannon
(A) Rick Burk
(A) Kim MacDonald
Technical Director & Master Carpenter
Steven K. Jones
(M) Laura Duncan
Costume Production Manager
& Amelia Farrugia
(A) Sandy Goldsmith
& Sandy Goldsmith
Hair & Makeup Designer
(@) Trisha Sturgeon
& Stephen Pankiewicz
Cheryl Jarvis Woods
Orpheus Social Convenors
& Rick Burk
Theatre Food Coordinator
& Joyce Landry