KAYSVILLE — In a musical adaptation of the Steven Spielberg hit film by the same name, Catch Me If You Can, takes the audience through quite a story that is, “Strange but True.” This super-slick new musical from the writing team that teased out Hairspray is fun and well-paced, but might not have the same enduring magic as Hairspray. This production is well mounted, and director Kyle Esposito gives a cohesive vision throughout. It is more the source material that leaves one wondering if we should be rooting for this young conman.
The show opens with Frank’s arrest at the Miami airport, where he demands to make a statement. When Hanratty responds that Frank isn’t going to put on a show, that is, of course, exactly what he does. Set up as a TV special from the 1960’s era, the show allows for all the smart touches and glamour that still lets the story of a conman go down easy.
Holden Smith takes on the role of the young Frank Abagnale Jr., the charismatic conman who makes for a strange musical protagonist. The play shows young Frank learning the art of the con from his father, Frank Sr., played by Jason Wadsworth. Wadsworth delivers a solid performance, giving his character the greatest arc of any in the show. Frank Sr. starts the show as a slick businessman that is always looking for another angle and is the ultimate hero to his son. He teaches his son the important lessons in life: maintain eye contact, keep talking, and never tell the truth when a lie is so much easier. Throughout the course of the show, Frank Sr. is broken down, left by his wife, hounded by the IRS, and eventually left homeless and destitute. Wadsworth and Smith play the father and son relationship with heart, and they harmonize well together in, “The Pinstripes Are All That They See,” and, “Butter Outta Cream.”
Playing opposite the young and smooth Smith is Zachery Western as the FBI agent Carl Hanratty. Zachery Western gives gravity and weight to a character that might have just been a comic foil. Zachery Western as Carl Hanratty shines in, “Don’t Break The Rules,” and is cheered on as the underdog to the dazzling con man. As Hanratty continues his Javert-like pursuit of Frank Jr., he manages to find Frank Jr.’s mother Paula, played by Teresea Melendez. Paula sings a soulful bossa nova number with Hanratty where she sends a message to, “Don’t Be A Stranger,” to her son. Melendez sings beautifully, but the song feels forced into the story and thus drags on the narrative. Hanratty then bounces over to see Frank’s father and has a much more rousing number in, “Little Boy Be a Man.” This number is much more provoking and develops more sympathy for the dysfunctional home that produced Frank Jr. who at this point is doing much more than just forging checks.
Frank Jr. continues his life in the fast lane until he meets Brenda, the girl who makes him want to get out of the game. Frank is now seen as a lost boy who is only trying on those other identities (a teacher, an airline pilot, a pediatric doctor, and a lawyer) to fill the void left by his broken family. This insight comes more through his relationship with Brenda than from Frank Jr. himself. Brenda, played by Morgan Fenner Western, has a sweet chemistry with Frank and makes us root for their love in, “Seven Wonders.” Brenda’s swan song, “Fly, Fly Away,” packs the most emotional charge and is an absolute standout in the show.
As with any good variety show from the 1960’s, there is a line of chorus girls who pop up to sing and dance the action along. I enjoyed Phil Tuckett chorus-girl choreography as the chorus girls joined in throughout the show. Set design, credited to Sarah Treu, Anne Treu, Mary Treu, and Eliza Treu was a nice view of the inside of an airline terminal and left a solid canvas for the action. Prop designer Justina Spencer mixed black box functional furniture with simple touches of 1960’s props to keep the era of the play clearly set. Costume designer Jeffrey Black did an impressive job designing the costumes for the period piece. The retro costumes are fun, especially the chorus numbers which have a Vegas feel and a great deal of dancing.
The show has a bookend that brings it back to the opening standoff when we first met all the characters and lists all the good reasons as to why all is well that ends well. While I wouldn’t say that this musical blew me away, it is overall a good production. The main cast is full of phenomenal singers. Some of the material is a little weak, but any fan of jazz and Rat Pack-style music will enjoy the smooth orchestrations.
At the end of the curtain call, the cast reminded me of the mission of the Hopebox Theatre: “bringing hope to families battling cancer through the performing arts.” A portion of all ticket sales, as well as other donations, are given to the nominated recipient. For this show, the proceeds go to help Leslie Northam, a nurse who is living with uterine or endometrial cancer that has become very aggressive. More information on her situation and how to donate can be found on the Hopebox Theatre’s website. I love that a good night out is also helping a good cause.