BWW Review: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is a Grab Bag Delight at Bellevue Little Theatre
I caught CATCH ME IF YOU CAN at the Bellevue Little Theatre on Friday night. This musical which is new to me, is based on the escapades of Frank Abagnale, Jr. Borrowing from the 2002 film starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio and the 1980 autobiography written by Abagnale and Stan Redding, it features a musical score by Marc Shaiman (HAIRSPRAY) and Scott Wittman with libretto by Terrence McNally.
The Broadway production ran for less than six months in 2011 even with notable performers Norbert Leo Butz, Tom Wopat, and Aaron Tveit. Some critics attributed the reasons for this early closure to an oddly structured book and unlikely protagonist. The music was also criticized. Music and lyrics earned Drama Desk nominations, but failed to claim a win.
The plot revolves around Frank Abagnale, Jr. who is a real life person. According to his stories, he began stealing from his father by using his credit cards to purchase automobile parts and return them for cash. From there he went on to print his own checks, and defying all logic...pose as a substitute French teacher, a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. Rather than teaching his son honesty, Frank Abagnale, Sr. is a con artist in his own right and encourages him to cheat while his mother, a beautiful French woman, cheats on her husband with his friend.
While supervising the Emergency Room as "Doctor Conners," Abagnale meets nurse Brenda, the woman of his dreams, and returns with her to her home to meet her parents, Carol and Roger.
The whole time Abagnale is on the run, persistent FBI agent Carl Hanratty is one step behind. Theirs is a complicated relationship, which is played out well toward the end of the show, eliciting sympathy for both.
The music captures the sounds of the early 1960's with a nod to Mitch Miller, but also has a big band flair that tastes more like the 1940's. I found none of the songs sticking in my head, except for "Fly, Fly Away" sung beautifully by Amanda Srygley with harmony added by Evelyn Hill, Chloe Rosman and Brooke Lewis. Eric Micks adds a humorous touch to "Little Boy Be a Man" with Kevin Olsen. The vocalists, some of whom were experiencing some consistency challenges, are supported by a solid orchestra conducted by Chris Ebke.
D. Laureen Pickle returns to BSB to direct this colorful, fun show that has a tiny bit of drama, a whole lot of comedy, and even a touch of sadness. Choreography by Kerri Jo Watts and Eastin Yates is peppy and is particularly lively in the "Jet Set" number with the airline flight attendants. Nancy Buennemeyer creates appealing costumes, including those of the flight attendants, Paula's beautiful dress and coat, and some crazy costumes worn by the products being advertised.
Frank Abagnale, Jr. may not have been an appealing person, but Thomas Stoysich is. His likability factor is sky high, whether he is relating to the other actors on stage or the audience. His relationship with Carl Hanratty (Eric Micks) deepens throughout the show and it's a beautiful thing to see.
Micks charms as the pesky FBI agent who pursues Abagnale without losing his humanity along the way. He sings "The Man Inside the Clues" with great feeling. His is the most layered of the characters and Micks does it well.
Micks is backed by a bumbling group of agents that supply much of the humor in the show: Matt Karasek, Randy Wallace, and Jackson Hal Cottrell. Their missteps and shenanigans are silly and fun.
Allison Helligso portrays an elegant French woman (Paula Abagnale) to near perfection. She oozes class and excels vocally.
Heather Wilhem (Carol) and Don Harris (Roger) as Brenda's parents nearly steal the show with their down home Southern humor and strong stage presence. Wilhem's pipes and her striking auburn hair capture Carol's personality. She's a force.
Amanda Srygley embodies the loving Brenda. Her innocent portrayal of a woman who stands by her man, whether he's in the right or not, rings true. Add in her sweet vocals and you have a winner.
This isn't Marc Shaiman's HAIRSPRAY. It's a grab bag like Abagnale's many identities. You don't know what's inside. You don't know why the contents are thrown in together. But it's fun and worth purchasing a ticket. Don't print your own. That didn't end well for Abagnale. Actually, it kinda did...he ended up with a good job working for the FBI and enjoying his notoriety. He even got to meet Leonardo DiCaprio. And that's something.
Note: Bring a lap blanket or a warm sweater. It's chilly in the BLT!
SEP 13-29, 2019
Photo courtesy of BLT.