October 9, 2012
Providence Performing Arts Center
The National Tour of Catch Me If You Can has opened at the Providence Performing Arts Center! Opening on Broadway in 2011, this charming new musical is based on the story of real-life con man, Frank Abagnale, Jr., who passed $2.5 million in forged checks while posing as a doctor, lawyer, and pilot all before he turned 21 years old. With a magnificent score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and an amusing and clever book by Terrence McNally, Catch Me If You Can is a surefire audience pleaser.
Synopsis: Growing up, Frank Abagnale, Jr. has a seemingly perfect childhood, raised by two doting parents including a father who taught him the importance of outward appearances. At the age of sixteen, his parents divorce, and rather than choose between them, Frank escapes to New York City where he quickly learns the art of being an impostor (as well as how to pass bad checks). It isn’t long before FBI agent, Carl Hanratty is hot on his tail, which leads to a sometimes intense, sometimes hilarious cat and mouse chase, and ultimately, an unlikely friendship.
Comments: The highlight of Catch Me If You Can is its upbeat, energetic, “big band” score, which is reminiscent of the 1960‘s Sinatra “era”, and this is followed closely by Jerry Mitchell’s impeccably choreographed dance numbers performed by a talented ensemble of dancers. The audience went wild for jazzy numbers such as “Doctor’s Orders”, “Live in Living Color”, and “Jet Set”. (It’s not surprising that Shaiman and Wittman were recruited for SMASH- this duo certainly knows how to create an audience-pleasing score!)
Recent college graduate Stephen Anthony is near perfectly cast as high school student turned con artist, Frank Abagnale, Jr. Not only does he possess boyish good looks and charm, he can also sing the heck out of the score in a performance that rivals Aaron Tveit’s (who originated the role on Broadway). Undoubtedly, he gave the stand out performance. I thought he had great chemistry with his stage father, played by Dominic Fortuna, and I particularly enjoyed their scenes together.
As the gruff, but endearing FBI agent who relentlessly chases Frank halfway across the world, Merritt David Janes certainly nailed his highly anticipated dance number, “Don’t Break the Rules”, which was performed by original Broadway cast member, Norbert Leo Butz, at the 2011 Tony Awards. He also sang several slow, bluesy numbers that I really enjoyed and gave both a comedic and dramatic performance. I expect that he will grow more into the role as time goes on, seeing that Providence is the first stop on the tour.
As Frank’s sweet and innocent love interest Brenda Strong, Aubrey Mae Davis was very effective, and she gave a warm and mournful performance of a pretty 11 o’clock ballad called, “Fly, Fly Away”.
The orchestra was effectively placed on the stage rather than in the pit, and much like the musical Chicago, the orchestra was part of the story line. There were large screens which projected various colors and shapes during the musical numbers. I don’t recall these screens in the Broadway production and I’m unsure if they are a new addition for the tour, but regardless, they were completely unnecessary and distracted the audience from the actors.
The Verdict: Catch Me If You Can is one of my favorite musicals; it’s smart and comedic with great music and choreography, and I’m glad people around the United States have been given the chance to see it.