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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Catch Me If You Can
Arizona Broadway Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's review of Sister Act

Sal Pavia and Cast
Photo by Shari Corbett
Based on the autobiographical book and movie of the same name, the musical Catch Me If You Can tells the story of a young con man on the run and the FBI agent who is trying to catch him. While it didn't run that long on Broadway, the show, which is set in the 1960s, has interesting and intriguing characters along with a rich, jazz infused score. Arizona Broadway Theatre's production features a talented cast, sure footed direction, fun and inventive choreography and creative elements that perfectly evoke the period and style of a '60s variety show.

Catch Me If You Can tells the true tale of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a young man who runs away to escape his troubled and uncertain homelife with only his charm, imagination, and a checkbook filled with fifty blank checks. He first starts to forge checks and then turns his ability to deceive others into passing himself off as a pilot for Pan Am. Things escalate from there, with Frank always on the run from the FBI and the agent out to get him, Carl Hanratty.

With a book by Terrence McNally and a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the musical frames Frank's story as a show within a show and begins with Frank getting caught by Hanratty. He pleads with Hanratty to let people know why they are chasing him, in order to tell them his story and show why he did what he did. Hanratty agrees and the musical becomes Frank's personal variety show, reminiscent of ones from the 1960s, with him introducing the people in his life in various vignettes that highlight the key moments in his journey.

The play within a play structure works fairly well and while the story differs slightly from the hit 2002 movie, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank, it does a good job of touching upon the important plot elements and turning points in Frank's life. However, there are a few slight disjointed scenes and, while the variety show theme is prominent in the beginning of the show, it pretty much gets completely lost in the middle, which makes the structure of the show a bit off. Also, the last few moments, which tell you what actually happened to Frank and Hanratty, are somewhat rushed and a bit short on details. Fortunately, the score is a knock-out in the style of the period with several memorable tunes, including "Live in Living Color," "Jet Set," "Doctor's Orders," and "Goodbye."

ABT's cast is very good. Sal Pavia is Frank and Matthew Mello is Hanratty and both create endearing characters full of charisma. They have great singing voices and also display a fun relationship with each other. While Pavia appears to be slightly older than the age Frank is during the time the musical portrays, he does an adequate job playing the youthful side to the character. He also has a clear, strong and beautiful singing voice as well as a playful interaction with the audience, helping to instill a large dose of magnetism into the part. Mello's quirky, nerdy demeanor and good line delivery give plenty of realistic depth and layers to his portrayal of this lost and somewhat alone man. While his depiction is natural and realistic, he also adds in some nice comic touches including some agile and funny dance moves which help turn "Don't Break the Rules," where he and his fellow FBI agents form an exuberant dancing ensemble, into a major showstopper about the difference between right and wrong.

Jason Plourde and Carolyn McPhee are incredibly poignant as Frank's parents. Plourde makes all the right acting choices as this broken-down man while McPhee is touching and caring. Megan Moylan as Brenda, the girl Frank falls in love with, is charming and sweet and delivers a soaring version of "Fly, Fly Away," with a perfectly nuanced lyric delivery that captures the realization her character has of Frank's plight.

Director and choreographer Stephen Casey evokes the right swingin' '60s sensibility in his pacing, direction and choreography. While he infuses the show with an upbeat and playful sensibility and keeps the show moving at a fun and quick pace, and his cast do a very good job creating characters steeped in the elegant style of the period, Casey also ensures the poignant scenes between Frank and his parents as well as a few between Frank and Hanratty are full of emotion. Casey's choreography is incredibly fun and original yet also period appropriate. Set designer Jim Hunter features the color, styles and imagery of the 1960s, which works very well for the variety show vibe. Lottie Dixon's costumes are playful and period appropriate as is Adam Berger's music direction and conducting of the smoking hot eight-piece band.

While Catch Me If You Can may not have been that successful in its Broadway run, and there are a few small shortcomings due to the show within a show structure, it's a fun and enjoyable musical with captivating characters, an energetic and catchy score, and an intriguing book. Arizona Broadway Theatre's winning production has a talented cast, confident direction, fun choreography, a spirited ensemble, and rich creative elements that make for a thoroughly enjoyable, upbeat, and even somewhat moving production.

Catch Me If You Can, through August 12th, 2018, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. Tickets can be ordered at or by calling 623 776-8400.

Based on the DreamWorks Motion Picture
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Mar Shaiman
Book by Terrence McNally
Direction and Choreography: Stephen Casey
Music Direction: Adam Berger
Set Design: Jim Hunter
Lighting Design: Karen D. Lawrence
Costume Design: Lottie Dixon
Wig/Makeup Design: Amanda Gran
Sound Design: Connor Adams
Executive Producer: Kiel Klaphake
Casting and Artistic Producer: Cassandra Klaphake

Cast (in alphabetical order):
Carol Strong: Amy Burgmaier
Ensemble: Brooke Martino
Ensemble: Caelan Creaser
Paula Abagnale: Carolyn McPhee
Ensemble: Charles Pang
Agent Branton: Christopher Cody Cooley
Ensemble: David Couter
Ensemble: Demi Ahlert
Ensemble: James Du Chateau
Frank Abagnale, Sr.: Jason Plourde
Ensemble: Lauren Alagna
Ensemble: Lauren Morgan
Det. Carl Hanratty: Matthew Mello
Brenda Strong: Megan Moylan
Agent Dollar: Olin Davidson
Roger Strong: Rob Watson
Frank Abagnale, Jr.: Sal Pavia*
Ensemble: Samantha Ross
Ensemble: Sebastian Goldberg
Ensemble: Stephen C Kallas
Agent Cod: Tyler T Simms

*Actor appears courtesy of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers

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