by Rebecca Rudnyk
Catch Me If You Can is a musical, based on a critically-acclaimed Spielberg film, based on a greater-than-fiction non-fiction book, that was based on a true story. Did you get all of that? Its inception was quite layered, so it’s totally understandable if you didn’t! In a nutshell, this is a true story about a teenage criminal who ultimately evolves into an American luminary.
Catch Me If You Can is the story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a 16-year-old kid who ran away from home in the midst of his parent’s marital turmoil. Leveraging his exceptional intelligence and confidence, he convinced the world that he was an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, all while amassing tremendous wealth through his fraudulent activities. It is concurrently a story about the role his parents played in his lack of ethical discretion, and the FBI agent who aggressively investigated Frank for his illegal activities and ultimately caught him.
The show opens quite cleverly. We are in an airport terminal in the 1960s. Over the loudspeaker the Pan Am captain, aided by his beautiful front-and-center stewardesses, explains the standard safety guidelines. Along with explaining how to use the seatbelt and oxygen masks, the audience is told where the emergency exits are and reminded to put their phones in airplane mode for the duration of the flight.
Then the show begins. And Sal Pavia (as Frank Abagnale Jr.) had me at “lights”. It took only a few moments, a few notes, before I was completely enamoured by the young man who would anchor the show for its duration. A young criminal. A child causing tremendous harm without the maturity or life-skills to really understand the consequences of his actions. Frank is an unaware anti-hero protagonist.
For the audience to accept his actions, his character requires a tremendous amount of charisma to counterbalance his tangible detriments to society. In response, Pavia delivers intense charm, beautiful vocal texture, and effortless movement from start to finish. He has a voice that qualifies him for a record deal, and/or a career on the Great White Way. I encourage you to go to the show with a Sharpie and have him sign your playbill. I venture to guess it’ll be worth something someday.
There are some very strong supporting performances, namely Matthew Mello as Agt. Carl Hanratty, Jason Plourde as Frank Abagnale, Sr., Carolyn McPhee as Paula, and Megan K. Moylan as Brenda Strong. The ensemble, with their frequent costume changes and crisp choreography, also add a tremendous amount of texture and energy. And having the orchestra play on stage injects exuberance into every scene they are visible.
The technical staff also plays an integral role in the success of this production. The directing, staging, lighting and costumes were purely impeccable. The sets were clearly inspired by the original staging, but with the creative ingenuity one can always expect from ABT. And the lighting, especially the bulbs framing the proscenium, add color and depth, and ensure that the entirety of the production is reminiscent of a 1960s television show.
There were some exceptional scenes amongst this very solid production. The opening number “Live in Living Color” is fun and vibrant, full of movement in bright green, yellow and orange. A wonderful way to open a show. “Butter out of Cream” between Frank Jr. and Sr. is a charming scene that solidifies to everyone how much Frank admires his father. In Act 2, the touching “Seven Wonders” is a beautiful and quirky love song that clarifies how dynamically Frank’s motivations have shifted.
I have to admit, in the midst of this fairly light-hearted show set to a mod and retro backdrop, there was something quite poignant and, perhaps unintentionally relevant, about the context. We are living in a time when the FBI is fighting to reaffirm and solidify its legitimacy to portions of the American people. So moments such as the mention that the bureau works in “black and white” and watching the agents walk in circles while trying to make forward progress, were more obviously commentary than they might have been in another time.
This is yet another wonderful achievement in a stellar season at Arizona Broadway Theatre. The meal and show make for an extraordinarily fun night out. The menu is absolutely fantastic! I recommend the Corn Chowder and the Grilled Curry Salmon, which was genuinely the best salmon I’ve ever had. Troublemaker, the show-specific wine, is a fantastic red blend. And the Baked Brie and Cherry Wedge pairs beautifully with the wine and is a delicious way to start the meal.
I suggest you get out there and catch this one while there is still time.
Catch Me If You Can plays at Arizona Broadway Theatre through Sunday, August 12th. Tickets are available from the ABT website and are worth every penny. For an even better deal, you can use coupon code CatchADeal for a $20 discount at checkout. And for a limited time and for certain shows, Goldstar members can purchase deeply discounted seats via the app or website.