Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Sister Act
Catch Me If You Can tells the true tale of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a young man who runs away to escape his troubled and uncertain homelife with only his charm, imagination, and a checkbook filled with fifty blank checks. He first starts to forge checks and then turns his ability to deceive others into passing himself off as a pilot for Pan Am. Things escalate from there, with Frank always on the run from the FBI and the agent out to get him, Carl Hanratty.
With a book by Terrence McNally and a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the musical frames Frank's story as a show within a show and begins with Frank getting caught by Hanratty. He pleads with Hanratty to let people know why they are chasing him, in order to tell them his story and show why he did what he did. Hanratty agrees and the musical becomes Frank's personal variety show, reminiscent of ones from the 1960s, with him introducing the people in his life in various vignettes that highlight the key moments in his journey.
The play within a play structure works fairly well and while the story differs slightly from the hit 2002 movie, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank, it does a good job of touching upon the important plot elements and turning points in Frank's life. However, there are a few slight disjointed scenes and, while the variety show theme is prominent in the beginning of the show, it pretty much gets completely lost in the middle, which makes the structure of the show a bit off. Also, the last few moments, which tell you what actually happened to Frank and Hanratty, are somewhat rushed and a bit short on details. Fortunately, the score is a knock-out in the style of the period with several memorable tunes, including "Live in Living Color," "Jet Set," "Doctor's Orders," and "Goodbye."
ABT's cast is very good. Sal Pavia is Frank and Matthew Mello is Hanratty and both create endearing characters full of charisma. They have great singing voices and also display a fun relationship with each other. While Pavia appears to be slightly older than the age Frank is during the time the musical portrays, he does an adequate job playing the youthful side to the character. He also has a clear, strong and beautiful singing voice as well as a playful interaction with the audience, helping to instill a large dose of magnetism into the part. Mello's quirky, nerdy demeanor and good line delivery give plenty of realistic depth and layers to his portrayal of this lost and somewhat alone man. While his depiction is natural and realistic, he also adds in some nice comic touches including some agile and funny dance moves which help turn "Don't Break the Rules," where he and his fellow FBI agents form an exuberant dancing ensemble, into a major showstopper about the difference between right and wrong.
Jason Plourde and Carolyn McPhee are incredibly poignant as Frank's parents. Plourde makes all the right acting choices as this broken-down man while McPhee is touching and caring. Megan Moylan as Brenda, the girl Frank falls in love with, is charming and sweet and delivers a soaring version of "Fly, Fly Away," with a perfectly nuanced lyric delivery that captures the realization her character has of Frank's plight.
Director and choreographer Stephen Casey evokes the right swingin' '60s sensibility in his pacing, direction and choreography. While he infuses the show with an upbeat and playful sensibility and keeps the show moving at a fun and quick pace, and his cast do a very good job creating characters steeped in the elegant style of the period, Casey also ensures the poignant scenes between Frank and his parents as well as a few between Frank and Hanratty are full of emotion. Casey's choreography is incredibly fun and original yet also period appropriate. Set designer Jim Hunter features the color, styles and imagery of the 1960s, which works very well for the variety show vibe. Lottie Dixon's costumes are playful and period appropriate as is Adam Berger's music direction and conducting of the smoking hot eight-piece band.
While Catch Me If You Can may not have been that successful in its Broadway run, and there are a few small shortcomings due to the show within a show structure, it's a fun and enjoyable musical with captivating characters, an energetic and catchy score, and an intriguing book. Arizona Broadway Theatre's winning production has a talented cast, confident direction, fun choreography, a spirited ensemble, and rich creative elements that make for a thoroughly enjoyable, upbeat, and even somewhat moving production.
Catch Me If You Can, through August 12th, 2018, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. Tickets can be ordered at www.azbroadway.org or by calling 623 776-8400.
Based on the DreamWorks Motion
*Actor appears courtesy of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers