CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, THE MUSICAL
WHITBY COURTHOUSE THEATRE
Produced by Rhonda Martin and Heather Doucette, Vocal Coaching by Neva Deely, Choreography by Baiba Senecal, Direction by Erastus Burley
The film version of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN raked in big bucks in 2002. With a cast headed by Tom Hanks as FBI agent Carl Hanratty and Leonardo Di Caprio as con man Frank Abagnale Jr, it was obvious the film was box office gold. When I had heard this musical was in West Coast previews a couple of years later with a scheduled New York opening, I grimaced. Sometimes, I get tired of hearing about good films that are adapted into live theatre musicals.
I flew to New York about four months after the original New York company opened the production at the Neil Simon Theatre. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it and was proven wrong. And yet, would or could any community theatre ever produce this show on account of what I assume would be astronomically high budget costs?
Whether the budget was high for this one or not, there was much to enjoy from this opening, wintry February night at The Whitby Courthouse Theatre. Director Erastus Burley has a great fondness and affection for this show. The vibrant and energetic enthusiasm on that stage (credited to Mr. Burley) will most certainly have to be controlled by a regimented stage management team, headed by Heather Doucette, who have the important job of ensuring locales and set pieces are placed in a timely manner. The projection screen did help to establish a number of places. A few times, there were moments when the pace slowed considerably as furniture pieces were placed.
The chic look, the in vogue fashion and the sophisticated flair of the 60s were evoked everywhere especially in the rich colours of the costumes. The Pan Am flight uniforms were only one reminder of just how much work has gone into this production.
Greg Poulin’s lighting design was concise and controlled. There were a few moments where some cues weren’t picked up as quickly as they should have been. As performances continue, I’m sure these miscues will be restored.
Burley’s scenic design uses every minute space on the WCT stage. At times, from my seat in the house, it appears congested as a good deal of the action is played downstage in order to allow the band to play over the performers. Thank you for allowing me to check post performance so I could verify that, yes, it is deceiving from certain seats in the house. Every inch of that stage and auditorium is utilized to its maximum effect.
CATCH ME is staged as a musical revue since the 60s televised the shows of such luminaries as Mitch Miller and Dean Martin. For the most part, the band (led by Nick Denis) underscored nicely the ensemble and solo numbers so these clever lyrics could be heard. There were a few moments where the band overpowered the singers, but I’m sure this minor quibble in musical balance will be amended as performances continue. Some of the solo lines by ensemble members sounded off key, so attention will have to be paid in this respect. Baiba Senecal’s choreography is stylized and entertaining to watch. Another quibble – some members of the ensemble in the back row were having difficulty keeping in time while members of the front row were rockin’ the moves.
There are entertaining and delightful performances. The seventeen-member ensemble (which includes the FBI agents) is youthful, passionate and dynamic in the variety of roles played. As Brenda Strong, Frank’s soon to be fiancée, Abigail Denardis plays the young ingénue with tremendous sweetness. Ms. Denardis has a lovely singing voice and her solo “Fly, Fly Away” brought down the house (not to mention brought a few tears to the eyes).
Tom Lynch and Kelley B. Dewey play the young Frank’s parents, Frank Sr. and Paula Abagnale. His mother has clearly influenced the young Frank’s eye for the ladies as she was a looker. Ms. Dewey plays Paula with subtle sex appeal and vulnerability. As Frank’s smooth talking father, Tom Lynch is a devilish con artist himself who has a tremendous passion for both looking and feeling good and has passed this trait to his son. Mr. Lynch commands the stage in his moments with dramatic precision one minute while revealing his sadness and vulnerability in the second act.
Mark Rittinger and Kathy Knight make an adorable Southern couple as Brenda’s parents, Roger and Carol Strong. Their song “Our Family Tree” is tremendous fun to watch and to hear.
What is truly admirable in this WCT production are the performances of the two leads who complement each other extremely well. Both gentlemen hold considerable stamina for this show as neither of them leaves the stage for very long. Brian Hargan plays the tough as nails, Joe Friday(ish) Carl Hanratty with zest and fervor while not being afraid to reveal his fears and inadequacies. Charlie Davidson brings charm and magnetism as Frank Abagnale, Jr. Mr. Davidson is clearly physically fit to tackle the demands of this role as he sings and dances with much gusto one minute while breaking many hearts the next.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN continues at the Whitby Courthouse Theatre in the Whitby Centennial Building, 416 Centre Street South. Remaining performances from February 16 – 18 and 23-25 are sold out, but you might be able to get a possible single seat. Additionally, check the box office for any returns. Telephone 905-668-8111 or visit whitbytheatre.org for further information.