Review: ‘Catch Me If You Can’ world premiere looks like a hit!
August 7, 2:16 PM Seattle Performing Arts Examiner Marsha Kuykendall
If you’re looking for an evening of laughs and light-hearted entertainment, enjoy a roundtrip ticket to the world premiere musical Catch Me If You Can, at the 5th Avenue Theatre. The new production, which runs through Aug. 16, is sure to be a hit!
Based on the movie of the same name and book by Tony Award-winner Terrence McNally, Catch Me If You Can chronicles the true-life adventures of young Frank Abignale, Jr. After running away from home, Frank (played by Aaron Tveit), while still a teenager, creates an array of false identities ”“ airline pilot, doctor, lawyer ”“ and steals over $1.2 million before being caught by FBI agent Carl Hanratty (played by Tony Award-winner Norbert Leo Butz).
Directed by five-time Tony Award-winner Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell, Catch Me If You Canopens as Frank Jr. is being surrounded by Hanratty and his FBI cohorts (Timothy McCuen Piggee, Clarke Thorell, Brandon Wardell). As a last resort, Frank turns to the audience and begins to tell his tale. He introduces his father Frank Abignale, Sr. (Tom Wopat) and mother Paula (Rachel De Benedet), and we quickly learn of his father’s trouble with the IRS and his parent’s impending separation. Unable to cope with his family’s demise, Frank Jr. runs away and embarks on a series of illegal misadventures, romantic liaisons and life lessons, which culminate with his capture.
Other key players include sexual provocateur Cheryl Ann (Felicia Finley), Frank Jr.’s southern-belle love interest Brenda Strong (Kerry Butler), and her parents Carol (Linda Hart) and Roger (Nick Wyman),
Overall, the cast is delightful. Tveit and Butler give solid performances, as do Benedet, Finley, Hart and Wyman. Finley is titillating as she sings to Frank, “You Gotta Pay for Love”. Hart and Wyman provide knee-slapping charm with “Bury Me Beside the One I Love”. And Tveit and Butler create memorable showstoppers with their renditions of “Goodbye” and “Fly, Fly Away”, respectively. But the best performances of the night were by Wopat and Butz. Wopat, whose fine acting is matched by his butter-melting baritone voice, brilliantly captures Frank Sr.’s charm and frailty. Meanwhile, Lutz’s perfect comic timing provides several of the show’s funniest moments.
The music and lyrics, written by the Tony Award-winning musical composing team of Marc Shaiman (music and lyrics) and Scott Wittman (lyrics), are lively and enticing. The set design by David Rockwell and lighting by Kenneth Posner are enchanting. Especially clever are the onstage placement of the orchestra and use of an animated graphic screen backdrop that creates the location and mood for each scene. When Frank Jr. becomes an airline pilot, we experience the visual and aural effect of a jet taking off and flying overhead. At other times the screen creates the illusion of an FBI office, a hospital, a southern plantation, a nightclub, as well as cityscapes, starscapes and snowscapes. Toward the end of the show, the audience is even prompted to sing along, as lyrics ”“ with bouncing ball ”“ are displayed on the screen.
Slightly disappointing is the ensemble choreography and costume design. At a time when audiences have become more choreographically savvy (thanks, in part, to such popular television hits as FOX’sSo You Think You Can Dance and ABC’s Dancing with the Stars), the ensemble choreography seems somewhat simplistic and unexciting. The costume design, by Bob Mackie, though definitely colorful, teeters, at times, on the edge of corny (what airline pilots wear bright baby blue and lavender uniforms?).