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BWW Review: Live in Living Color: Vibrant CATCH ME IF YOU CAN Closes Lyric Season

It's hard to imagine why this gem of a show had such a short Broadway run, but it is finding new life in regional productions, not the least of which opened here at South Portland's Lyric Music Theater this past weekend. Directed by Mary Meserve with sparkling choreography by Raymond Marc Dumont and featuring a large cast with strong vocal-dramatic abilities, anchored by Eric Berry-Sandelin's charismatic performance as Frank Abagnale, Jr., this is a delight not to be missed!

The musical version of Abagnale's amazing journey from lost little boy to jet setting con man to upstanding crime-fighting citizen told within the conceit of a period television show is filled with catchy and memorable songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, strung together by a coherent and often touching book by Terrence McNally. Add big dance numbers and a challenging vocal score - especially for the protagonist - and you have a perfect recipe for a winning show.

Lyric Music Theater brings to bear its best resources in this production. Mary Meserve's staging, which follows rather closely the Jack O'Brien Broadway production, keeps a crisp pace and rightly focuses on the heart of the story - a boy in search of a father. Raymond Marc Dumont's choreography gives much of the energy to the performance. Despite the limited space on the Lyric's stage, he creates some lively, complex, exhilarating dances that are characterful, inspired by Jerry Mitchell but original and insightful on their own. Evan Cuddy serves as musical director and conducts the five-person ensemble from the keyboards with brio.

Steve Lupien's tiered set (with props by Janie Downey Maxwell and Wayne Russell) is attractive and minimalist and thanks to cleverly choreographed set changes allows the action to move seamlessly and quickly. Louise Keezer takes her cue from the Technicolor metaphor and designs bright, stylish 1960s attire. Don Smith's lighting adds color -(occasional spotlight gaffs)- and Scott Whiting continues to strive for the best balanced sound design possible in a problematic acoustic. (At times the soundscape favored too strongly the orchestra, and posed excessive challenges to the cast, who, to their credit, somehow made themselves heard and understood without forcing.)

The twenty-nine person cast - large by Lyric's standards - gave it their all. The dance ensemble, led by Associate Choreographer Keith Nadeau, performs with skill and verve. The smaller roles are all well etched. Joanna Clarke proves a brassy bombshell as Cheryl Ann; Cameron Ramich plays an amusingly bureaucratic doctor; Jeff Campbell (Agent Branton), Adam Gary Normand (Agent Cod), and Chris DiPretoro (Agent Dollar) make for a comic trio of weary FBI operatives with Normand contributing a deliciously funny riff on Julia Child. David Heath and Teri S. Gauthier captures the colorful Southern manner of Brenda's parents, while Karen Stickney is a luminous Paula Abagnale -enough of a femme fatale to give credibility to the story - and Mark Dils makes a sympathetic, if misguided Frank Abagnale, Sr.

In the trio of principal roles, Jennifer Kennedy proves a winsome Brenda - wholesome, sweet, and tender - and she delivers her big anthem "Fly, Fly Away" with soaring vocal power and intensity. Zach Handlen captures the awkward, obsessive elements of Agent Hanratty's character perfectly, though one misses a little of the weary, self-deprecating cynicsm that softens the persona. He does make a suitable foil, however, for Frank, and manages to convey an increasing sense of paternal caring as the show moves to its conclusion.

As Frank Jr. Eric Berry-Sandelin lights up the stage, suggesting the character's combination of boyishness, opportunism, mischievousness, and low-key but irresistible charm. As with his previous work, he creates the character from within with a naturalness that mitigates some of what was criticized on Broadway as the character's "slickness." One sees the hurt, lost boy who runs away and runs blindly into a life of crime, and scenes such as the Christmas call to Hanratty are genuinely moving. Vocally, the role lies perfectly for him, and he uses his honeyed tenor in both the belt and head voice with elegance, while his all-out rendition of big eleventh hour number "Goodbye" proves to be the dramatic climax it is designed to be.

Once again, Lyric Music Theater is to be congratulated for the ambitiousness of its undertakings, for the breadth of its repertoire, and for the passion of its players. Kudos to all for a remarkable 64th season!

Photos courtesy of Lyric Music Theater, photographer Woody Leland

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN runs from June 2- 18, 2017, at Lyric Music Theater, 176 Sawyer St., South Portland, M

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From This Author Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold