Flying the friendly skies… A Conman’s story takes flight.
There is something quite fresh about the musical Catch Me If You Can now playing at the Heritage Community Theatre in Perry, Utah. The chances are that you won’t be familiar with the show which premiered on Broadway in 2011 at the Neil Simon Theatre and garnered four Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical. I wasn’t. And you probably will not yet know the songs. But you will, after watching this production. Mixing a laugh with a tear and splitting time between poignancy and guilty pleasure, this show is one that entertains.
Since I did not know the show, I was hoping for a Guys, and Dolls feel, and at times I almost got there, but this show has legs of its own to stand on. The father and son relationship is explored at length, and from a few angles that surprised me. That made this show something fresh. I found myself entranced in the action and story of this piece. I think you will be swept up as well. Be aware that this is a show without children on the stage and I think that this is a night to leave them home as well. There is no blatant license taken here, but it is a picture of the times and told from a Con-man’s point of view. There is a comeuppance, and justice is done in the end, but the story’s covers are peeled back far enough to see the motivation, and even the criminal’s naivete at times. I loved the portrayal, but make no mistake, this is not the role model you seek.
The play, with Music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and book by Terrence McNally (the same production team that brought forth Hairspray) is well directed by Heritage veteran Leslie Richards maps the criminal career of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Ben Lowell), a too-clever 16-year-old who has the charm, charisma, and chutzpah to bluff his way through any situation. He learned from the best, his dad, Frank Abagnale, Sr. (Troy Hone), an entrepreneur and slickster never far from a big win, but usually, a day or dollar short. The father-son relationship is the heart of this show, and the casting of Lowell and Hone is as ideal a pairing as could be imagined.
Lowell, for his part, never fails to shine in his own light with a grin that could melt an iceberg. I immediately felt I was being conned by this guy, but I loved the con and fell right into line with the character. While pulling this feat off with every audience member, because that is what conmen are supposed to do, I was amazed to find that Lowell could maintain that hold on me as he took the audience into the awe which Frank Jr. felt for Frank Sr.
Hone, seen many times before on Heritage’s stage, completes the show as we see his pure love and devotion for his one earthly price, Paula Abagnale (Brooke Wardle) who slips through his fingers, and also the pride with which he regards his son—who is reeking the revenge on the world Senior only wishes he could. Hone’s portrayal of sixties-cool and quiet desperation makes everywhere he wanders on stage a poignant treat.
Wardle commands the stage each time she appears but does so with a poised distinction that holds us at bay but softens and melts as she beholds the two men whose world she has shaped. It seems a mere matter of fact that she has room in her life for a third and separate lover. I should mention again that no special attention is paid to this part of her compartmentalized life, but it is there. It is just the character’s way.
Every show must have a good guy. The character Carl Hanratty (Travis Williams) is a hero, but in this telling, he is a well-weathered guy not above making a mistake—remember, this is Frank Jr. telling us the story. At times Hanratty, the beleaguered FBI Agent-in-charge, seems about to go under himself as he chases the criminal waiting for that one mistake, they all make. Williams takes us through a lot of emotions as he inadvertently bonds with his nemesis, and winds up the winner in this cat and mouse game. His part in the “My Favorite Time of Year,” “Little Boy Be A Man,” and “Don’t be a Stranger” numbers are among the most touching of the night. Lowell, Wardle, Hone, and Williams make for a very strong presence on stage in this show.
I must say that the FBI agent presence, with Agents Branton (Daniel Price), Cod (Colton Jones), and Dollar (Cameron Linford) looking to steal a scene or two, made me a little uncomfortable. I am biased because I am old enough to have had friends in the FBI at this time, and little is done with these characters except to use them as comic relief. I knew a stronger, silent type Agent—in fact, one friend who worked on this particular case. But I need to understand that this probably was the way Frank Abagnale Jr. saw his pursuers. Laugh with their antics is the best way to handle it, I guess because you will not have my personal baggage and the four actors do a good job in their roles.
But while we are on the subject of comic relief, actors Amber Kacherian and Jordan Martineau combine to become a tour de force in the roles of Carol and Roger Strong, doting parents of Brenda Strong (Aisha Marie) the apparent love of the younger Abagnale’s life (and coincidentally, the mistake the criminal finally makes). Marie comes alive in the second act and knocks us dead with her voice on “Fly, Fly Away.”
I did mention earlier that the music in this show is catchy, but it is more than just that; everyone who takes a song turn seems to be able to belt when appropriate—I’m looking at you, Tyler Bender (as the nurse soloist)—and lend a full voice to the songs. Ensemble actors: Annelise Anderson, Katie Hassell, Allison McEvoy, Mckenzie Nay, Eric Hawkins, and Kiressa Cullimore make the score look easy. Misa Findley, as music director has a lot to be proud of here.
In fact, the entire cast has a lot to be proud of in this production. It is not every day that the Heritage Community Theatre steps out of its own shadow to bring a new, relatively unknown, but very promising play to our area. It is a great leap of faith. We have the opportunity to see a play in its infancy that will soon become VERY popular and a standard. Are we up to it? I think we as a community are. See Catch Me If You Can—you will be entertained and probably have a new favorite show. I think I do.
Catch Me If You Can at the Heritage Community Theatre in Perry, Utah
Fri, Sat, Mon August 23 – Sept 14 with Matinee August 31
Curtain: 7:30 PM – Tickets: $12.00