BWW Reviews: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is One Well Worth Catching
A decade or so from now, if you were to google "Broadway shows that had a mediocre Broadway run but are regional theater crowdpleasers," I'd be willing to bet that Catch Me if You Can would top the list. The musical, written by Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman with a book by Terrence McNally, played only 166 Broadway performances. Despite mixed reviews, the musical received 5 Tony nominations, including Best Musical. Norbert Leo Butz even took home the award for Best Actor in a Leading role (In other words, Butz beat out both leads from The Book of Mormon, and the Tony Awards reaction shot from Mormon's Josh Gad demands a YouTube detour before you continue reading).
In short, Catch Me's Broadway production wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't a wild success either. It's nice to see that Woodlawn Theatre's production, one of the first regional productions of the musical, may be an indication that Catch Me may have a long life ahead of it. The show is a nostalgic throwback to the Golden Age of musical theater, and it easily entertains.
Based on the popular film of the same name, Catch Me if You Can tells the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., one of the world's youngest and most successful conmen. With a wink and a smile, Frank boastfully confesses to us, "I was a millionaire twice over and half again before I was twenty-one." How'd he do it? By posing as a doctor, a lawyer, and an airline pilot and by printing his own fraudulent checks along the way. While the film tells Frank's story in a simple, straight-forward way, the musical gives it a healthy serving of glitz. This is Frank's story and Frank's show, and in his head it's a colorful 1960s variety T.V. special, complete with an onstage orchestra and a bevvy of dancers with legs for days.
The variety show style pairs well with the talents of Woodlawn's creative team. Director Greg Hinojosa keeps the show moving along at a quick pace and makes sure that every element has the shimmering, dazzling quality that a 1960s variety show should have. Benjamin Grabill's set design, full of rounded edges, is clearly inspired by vintage television shows (A little Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, a dollop of American Bandstand, a pinch of The Price is Right). The set is stunning, especially when under Chris Muenchow's vibrant lighting. The onstage band, under the direction of Jane Haas, sounds superb, and the costumes (dear Lord, there are a lot of costumes) look fantastic, and the choreography by Christopher Rodriguez is extraordinary. Rodriguez gives the cast Broadway caliber material to work with, and they execute it brilliantly.
The talents of the cast spill beyond the show-stopping numbers. Jason Mosher excels as Frank Sr, especially on his Rat Pack inspired numbers. As Frank Jr's mother, Rebecca Trinidad is elegant and graceful. As a staple of the Woodlawn stage, Trinidad often plays more comical roles. While it's always a pleasure to watch her, there's something about seeing her in this more relaxed, understated role that is a treat, particularly in her second act dance routine. David Blazer is appropriately dry and wonderfully comical as Carl, the FBI agent hunting Frank Jr. Imagine a sarcastic, curmudgeony, fedora-wearing version of Inspector Javert, and you have Carl Hanratty. According to Blazer's bio, Catch Me marks his return to the stage after a twenty year absence. I sincerely hope he goes no longer than 20 seconds before returning to the stage again.
But the most memorable cast members are its leading man and his love interest. As Frank Jr, Brian Hodges carries the show. Catch Me is a star vehicle in which the actor playing Frank is onstage nearly the entire show. Hodges has a fantastic tenor voice and a ridiculous amount of charisma and charm. It's clear that the material demands much of him, but Hodges never breaks a sweat. And while she's only in the spotlight for the second act, Reagan Wilson is absolutely electrifying. As Brenda, Frank Jr's fresh-faced and innocent fiancée, Wilson is perfectly cast, and her eleven o-clock number brings the house down.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN plays The Woodlawn Theatre at 1920 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio, TX 78201 now thru May 11th. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $15-$23. For tickets and information, please visit www.woodlawntheatre.com