Catch Me If You Can. Book by Terrence McNally. Lyrics by Marc Shaiman. Music by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. Directed by Richard Block. Musical direction by Damien Slingsby. Choreographer: Rachel Thornton. Dramatic Productions. Gungahlin College Theatre. Until June 11. stagecenta.com.
With jet-propelled enthusiasm and energy, Dramatic Productions' Catch Me If You Can took off on opening night with flying colours. The show's opening number Live in Living Colour sets the tone for high-flying entertainment and a musical as fanciful and fantastical as its true life story of teenage confidence trickster Frank Abagnale jnr. I have not seen the film on which the musical is based, and under Richard Block's direction, Catch Me If You Can appeared fresh and original, highlighted with musical numbers that recalled the popular melodies of the '50s and '60s and the seductive jazz rhythms of the era. Under Damien Slingsby's musical direction, the orchestra, though occasionally overpowering a singer with its big band sound, injected the show with foot-jigging accompaniment to the songs.
Minimally staged, Catch Me If You Can relies on excellent casting and director Block has assembled an outstanding ensemble.
Pivotal to the show is the casting of Frank Abagnale jnr, the teenager who commits cheque fraud, accumulating millions of dollars. He then passes himself off as a Pan Am pilot, a paediatrician, a lawyer and when he is cornered by the FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Gerard Ninnes) who's been hot on his trail, Abagnale poses as a Secret Service agent. Alexander Clubb is phenomenal in the role. Mercurial, charming, and exuding a modest charisma, Clubb sings and acts with the assurance of a seasoned professional.
He is well matched by Ninnes as the dogged detective who is determined to get his man and there are excellent performances from Jonathan Garland as Frank Abagnale snr, a former GI and dubious role model to young Frank. Garland lends the show a poignancy as Frank snr's world disintegrates with the failure of his marriage and his decline into alcoholism. His duet with Ninnes, Little Boy Be a Man, lends the character pathos. The musical layers Frank's risky escapades with Broadway gloss, but this number and Don't Be A Stranger, sung by Frank jnr's mother Paula (Janelle McMenamin) and Frank snr evoke the dysfunctional and troubled past of a dreamer.
Josie Dunham as Frank's love interest, the innocent and naive nurse, Brenda Strong, hits a high point with her number Fly, Fly Away, subtly backed by the girls' chorus, who also excel as Pan Am hostesses and nurses. As Hanratty's FBI agents, the boys' chorus captures just the right balance of comedy and earnestness.
Dramatic Productions confirms its growing reputation as a leading musical theatre company in Canberra. Catch Me If You Can continues the company's successes, building on their innovative and impressive productions of The Last Five Years and Into The Woods. This recent arrival on the Canberra musical theatre scene is flying high and I encourage audiences to climb aboard for a great ride.