BWW Reviews: Moonlight Amphitheatre, Vista Rolls Out Red Carpet for CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Catch Me If You Can/book by Terrence McNally/music by Marc Shaiman/ lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman/directed by Larry Raben/choreographed by Karl Warden/Moonlight Amphitheatre, Vista/through September 27 ONLY
It used to be, in days gone by, that hit Broadway shows would be made into movies; now, it's the reverse. With a dearth of ideas for Broadway musicals, the trend lately has been to turn to the big screen and revamp a popular film for the stage, adding song and dance. Such was the case with 9 to 5 and later Legally Blonde engendering quite a bit of success. Those two had female stars at the core, so it's high time a male got some attention. Voila! Catch Me If You Can has a quirky real-life story about an anti-hero Frank Abagnale Jr. (Jacob Haren) who in the 60s was called the Johnny Appleseed of fraud. The outstanding creative team of book writer Terrence McNally and musical wizards Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman took an old idea and created an entertainingly fresh showcase around it. The resultant Catch Me If You Can which received several Tony Award nominations in 2012 - one win for Norbert Leo Butz as Best Featured Actor playing Agent Carl Hanratty - is now playing in its West Coast regional premiere in Vista at the Moonlight Amphitheatre with Josh Adamson essaying Hanratty.
Opening with the entertainingly rousing "Live in Living Color" the show is indeed like a vaudeville or TV variety show - The Frank Abagnale Jr. Show - a la Dean Martin or Mitch Miller with an overabundance of snappy, happy dance numbers. You have to wait, however, for most of the great songs and show's 'heart' until Act II, especially "Don't Be a Stranger" for terrific Tracy Lore as mother Paula, "Little Boy, Be a Man" giving Robert Neary some great moments as Frank Sr., "Seven Wonders", one of the score's most beautiful romantic ballads, "Family Tree", "Fly, Fly Away" a wonderfully dramatic turn for Heather Lundstedt as Brenda and Haren's sensational 11th hour "Good-Bye". And then, as if all of those tunes in a row were not enough, "Stuck Together (Strange But True)", a duet for Frank and Carl, joyously rings down the curtain. And as for heart, the storyline of Frank and Brenda's unexpected love affair and Frank's genuine desire to go straight and build a better life...well, it all comes full circle, delivering the goods and then-some.
There is a simply superb cast in Vista under Larry Raben's brilliantly fast-paced direction. Haren as Frank Jr. is so adorable and appealing from the onset, you can't help but root for him. We should not applaud his cons, but we do. A sterling and skilled performance! Lore and Neary are wonderfully real and appealing as the divergently different parents, Lundstedt is precious as Brenda and Adamson, always so perfect as the handsome leading man, here makes the serious role of Hanratty quirky and deliriously funny. It's a skillfully comedic performance! Karla Franko is simply delightful as Carol Strong, Brenda's mother, making a smaller role exceedingly memorable. Karl Warden's choreography is spot on stunning, with every chorus number deliciously fresh, quick and overflowing with pizzaz. Those amazon gals as 'the stewardesses and nurses from Paradise or... from hell' are unbelievable!
Getting back to what I said in the beginning, the creators took an old concept - making a vaudeville show out of crime, which was done so brilliantly in Chicago - and did make it work here. The ending is sort of like the one in Mel Brooks' shining The Producers. There, buddies Max and Leo walk into the sunset; here it's unexpected friends Carl and Frank who go out with a bang. It clicks and brings the audience mega joy, so, as entertainment, who could ask for anything more? Right? Chris Luessmann's sound, video and content design add magic to The Frank Abagnale Jr. Variety Show...or Catch Me If You Can. Go and enjoy this lovely outdoor production through September 27 ONLY!
(photo credit: Ken Jacques photography)