If you are looking for a hilarious, fast-paced, and music-filled trip back to the glamour and excitement that was 1960s entertainment, then a visit to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall to see the Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can will give you all that and so much more.
This refreshing “variety-show” version of Catch Me if You Can – based on the 2002 Steven Spielberg film of the same name and the true story of the man that inspired it – is the work of an impressive Tony-nominated team (book by Terrence McNally and score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) who also brought us shows like Hairspray and Ragtime. The story features a young con-man named Frank William Abagnale, Jr. who tricks, steals, and lies his way into becoming a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer before the age of 21, the FBI agent Carl Hanratty who spends years hot on Frank’s trail, and the unexpected friendship that develops between them.
The young Stephen Anthony, who plays Frank Jr., is undeniably the star of the show. He brings the perfect mixture of naiveté, intelligence, and energy to the role, which is only heightened by his impressive tenor vocals and dancing ability. He rarely leaves the stage at all during the entire two-and-a-half hour show, but he never misses a beat and finishes with just as much ardor and spirit as he begins with.
Merritt David Janes, who plays Agent Hanratty, holds his own while on stage with Anthony and they play well off each other. He also brings a lot of the comedic value to the show, cracking jokes with his fellow FBI agents. Others of note include Aubrey Mae Davis (Brenda) with her outstanding singing voice and Dominic Fortuna, who was very convincing as Frank’s “down in the dumps” father.
It also features a small but extremely talented supporting cast with most of the ensemble filling two or more important roles throughout the show – one example is actress Amy Burgmaier, who took on the highly comedic role of Brenda’s very southern mother, Carol Strong, along with the roles of Frank’s high school principal, a bank teller, and a stewardess. The show progresses at a near-manic rate and all the performers are dancing and singing about 90 percent of the time with stunning choreography by Jerry Mitchell (and without slowing down or looking tired, which was one of the most impressive parts about the whole show). If you are a dance aficionado, you will not be disappointed.
Due to the fast-paced nature of the show itself, the set and set changes are very innovative and very sparse. There are sliding partition walls to help indicate different rooms or areas, along with a few tables, chairs, or other small props that are moved on and off stage, but that is essentially it. What also helps set the scenes is a large LCD screen which covers the back of the stage and shows videos, photos, lights and graphics. This assists in moving the story forward and adds even more excitement and a fresh perspective.
One word of caution: If you are traveling with a young theatergoer, some discretion is advised. Because of a few “choice” words, some risqué outfits, and a song or two that features some light adult themes, it may not be appropriate for those under the age of 13.
While it can be faulted for being slightly predictable in style and plot, what it lacks in originality on those points is more than made up for by the sheer talent of the performers and the orchestra, the wonderful choreography and the innovative use of sets and props. These elements make Catch Me If You Can a must see.
HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC presents Catch Me If You Can through Sunday at Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Jackson Hall (505 Deaderick St.) Performances are 7:30 p.m. Today-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets ($15-$70) are available at (615) 782-4040 or www.tpac.org. Note: This show contains mature content. For more on the tour visit www.CatchMeOnTour.com.
*Photos by Carol Rosegg courtesy Catch Me If You Can tour and TPAC.