BWW Reviews: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN - A Guaranteed Good Time
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by David Clarke
The musicalized version of Frank Abagnale, Jr.'s jet set life, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, flies into the Hobby Center this week. With a strong opening night crowd and performance, this toe-tapping musical is sure to put a smile on your face and make you feel great. Marc Shaiman wrote the catchy score with lyrics by Scott Whitman and Marc Shaiman. Yet, audiences may better recognize this duo as the real-life composing team behind the hit songs for the fictional musical BOMBSHELL on NBC's SMASH.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN opens with Frank Abagnale, Jr. being caught by FBI Detective Carl Hanratty in an airport. Hanratty tells Frank that the show is over, which sparks a thought in Frank's head. Before we know it, the scene is transformed and Frank Abagnale, Jr. is hosting THE FRANK ABAGNALE, JR. SHOW, and the audience is his studio audience. He recounts his life from the moment he ran away from home as a teenager until Hanratty caught him. As he narrates his tale, the audience is witness to his career of crime cashing bad checks, impersonating a pilot, impersonating a doctor, and forging the credentials that qualify him to take and actually pass the Louisiana Bar Exam. Of course, there are many girls and women who keep him company along the way, but he can't help falling in love with one special southern belle, Brenda.
In New York City, Jack O'Brien directed the energetic, feel-good production. Matt Lenz has recreated his direction for the tour. The team keeps the jokes coming and the action moving along at an agreeably brisk pace. They utilize a large screen as a backdrop to change scenes with some other scenic pieces being walked in and out by the cast, which allows transitions to be both instantaneous and fluid.
Jerry Mitchell created the original Choreography for the musical, with Nick Kenkel recreating it for the tour in addition to adding additional choreography. The choreography is flashy and showy. It perfectly hides a lot of the scene transitions and is constantly entertaining.
Starring as Frank Abagnale, Jr., Stephen Anthony has a magnetic charisma that is impossible not to like. His delightful tenor voice has fantastic clarity, making each number sparkle with vibrant life. He wins the audience over with "Live in Living Color," breaks our hearts with the sobering first verse of "Someone Else's Skin," and astounds with a stirring rendition of "Good-Bye."
As Carl Hanratty, Merritt David Janes easily steals the show every scene he is in. His comedic timing is immaculate and his rich baritone voice is strong and engaging. He radiantly shines when performing "Don't Break the Rules" and "The Man Inside the Clues."
The smooth tongued and charming Frank Abagnale, Sr., is adeptly played by Dominic Fortuna. The audience easily sees where Frank Jr. gets all of his skills and wily charms during the exhilaratingly performed "The Pinstripes Are All They See."
Caitlin Maloney breathes such fascinating life into Frank's mother, Paula, that the audience is remiss that the role is not larger. Her rendition of "Don't Be A Stranger" is brilliant and depressing at the same time.
Aubrey Mae Davis is lovely and bubbly as Brenda, Frank's love interest. One can't help but think that she would make a fantastic Elle Woods in LEGALLY BLONDE. She really gets to wow the audience with star power in her big ballad, "Fly, Fly Away." Despite a shaky beginning on opening night, she pulled out all the stops for an impressive ending that left the audience awestruck by the end of the number.
As with shows like RENT and LES MISERABLES, the remaining members of the cast are constantly busy during the show. They dance and sing in almost every scene and never show any sign of fatigue. They expertly portray a myriad of characters and really add a lot of meat and pizzazz to the tale, ensuring that this musical delivers the full package.
The onstage orchestra is phenomenal. Matthew Smedal does a wonderful job directing them and cueing the music perfectly. Paces and tempos are wondrous, and the music is made memorable by their performance. I defy anyone to not walk out humming "Live in Living Color." If I could have one request, I'd love to see the orchestra let loose and move and sway the way that jazz bands usually do.
Bob Bonniol's Video System and Content Design is an intriguing way to reduce touring costs by not having physical set pieces flown in to show location. It is used to great affect in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN once the audience is no longer distracted by its novelty. Since it is not projections, it shines brighter than audiences are used to and appears to be able to do more tricks in displaying images. It wasn't until the end of "The Pinstripes Are All They See" that I finally got used to seeing it as a fanciful background and I was no longer constantly checking it and even watching it change. Other than missing moments from the first 10 minutes, the screen was no problem.
Without a doubt one of the best stars of the show is William Ivey Long's inspired and mesmerizing Costume Design. Whether it is a sparking Pan-Am jacket or pieces made to represent a Swiss Army Knife, an India Ink well, and Elmer's Glue, each and every piece is simply marvelous in creation and really does its fair share of work to expose the audience to both the time period and the mood of the scene.
Kenneth Posner's Lighting Design uses a nice touch of humor in the way the follow spots are used, especially as the musical first transitions into Frank's show. As the show progresses, it keeps all the action well lit and ensures that the audience knows where to focus at all times.
Sitting in Row P of the center orchestra, I heard every spoken and sung line with precise clearness. The music was mixed at an enjoyable volume and sound effects were both effective and satisfying additions to the show. Therefore, Peter McBoyle's Sound Design faultlessly does everything that it should.
Troika Entertainment's national tour of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is a fantastically fun evening out at the theater. The light and fluffy, feel-good show is the kind that guarantees some good laughs and sends the audience out uplifted and smiling. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is musical eye and ear candy at its finest.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN runs in Sarofim Hall at The Hobby Center for Performing Arts through Sunday, February 10, 2013. Get your tickets fast, or you'll miss this flight. For tickets and more information, please visit http://houston.broadway.com/ or call (800) 952 - 6560.
All photos By Carol Rosegg.