“Catch Me If You Can” soars at the Marcus

An authentic '60s musical vibe cribbed from "Hairspray" supports a strong cast, vibrant sets and high-kicking choreography.

By - Apr 24th, 2013 05:47 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

CatchMe630wideA

Tuesday, the Marcus Center hosted Catch Me If You Can, the unbelievable true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a world-class con man who embezzled millions while passing himself off alternately as a pilot, doctor and lawyer – all before his 21st birthday. Abagnale’s story has already been a bestselling autobiography and award-winning film, but its latest incarnation is a Broadway musical on its first-ever national tour – a re-invention that perfectly captures its ’60s vibe and features strong performances from its cast.

There’s scarcely a weak link in that cast, led by bright-eyed Steven Anthony (Abagnale) and Merritt David Janes, playing Carl Hanratty, the man in hot pursuit of the young scam artist. The show is set as an autobiographical retelling of Frank’s adventures, and so Anthony must quickly shape shift from child to ladies’ man to fake lawyer in practically no time. He does so beautifully, with a talent for misdirection that fools even the audience itself several times during the show. He also has great chemistry with all his cast members, including Dominic Fortuna, playing his father, Frank Sr., and Aubrey Mae Davis, who plays love interest Brenda Strong and shares the heart-warming duet, “Seven Wonders,” with him.

In "Catch Me If You Can," con man Frank Ab

In “Catch Me If You Can,” con man Frank Abagnale Jr. (Steven Anthony) travels the globe masquerading as a pilot, lawyer and doctor.

The musical’s songs suit its time period down to the last note, a mix of jazzy swing music and upbeat ensemble numbers. Not each is as catchy as they should be, but Catch Me If You Can hits its stride in the second act, with powerful solos like “Fly, Fly, Fly” and “Good-Bye” and harmonies pieces like “Little Boy, Be a Man” and “Don’t Be A Stranger.” A full orchestra is seen onstage in most scenes, featuring smooth saxophone and oboe solos for the slower jazz numbers, and a raging drum and trumpet for the faster, upbeat dance numbers.

More than anything, the score resembles that of Hairspray, which many members of the production team, including the music and lyrics team of Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman, choreographer Jerry Mitchell and director Jack O’Brien, previously worked together on. But while the high-energy, nostalgic score is a clear influence on the new musical, a film noir sensibility is at play as well.

Part of the success of Catch Me If You Can is in the way it looks as much as the way it sounds. The choreography is tailor-made for each song and character, with Hanratty’s moves reflecting his straitlaced persona and Frank Jr.’s more emblematic of his wily nature, and a chorus line of male and female dancers often join the lead cast for fast-paced dance moves. The lighting, scene changes, and backdrop animation were effective as well, making quick, seamless scene changes seem to last a blink of the eye. This mastered art of scene progression made the two and a half hour musical fly by, taking audiences on a funny, high-kicking chase across the globe.

Catch Me If You Can runs at the Marcus Center through April 28. Ticket prices start at $30 and can be purchased at (414) 273-7106 or online.

Categories: Theater

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *