THE TRUE STORY OF TEENAGER FRANK ABAGNALE JR, ONE OF THE BEST CON MEN OF OUR TIME IS SET TO MUSIC IN REDWOOD CITY’S COMMUNITY THEATRE 2016 SUMMER ANNUAL MUSICAL
The chase is on this summer in Redwood City, as RCCT opens their annual summer musical with a beloved Movie-turned-musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Redwood City Community Theatre only does one show a year - Live musical theater produced and performed by local community members. Their purpose is to bring live community theater for teens, adults and seniors. CATCH ME is now on stage at the Carrington Hall stage for one more weekend through Aug 28th. Based on the hit 2002 Dreamworks Film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks , Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner and Martin Sheen, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is a rousing musical set in the 1960’s created by Hairspray composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman with book by Tony-Award winner Terrence McNally. It follows the unbelievable true story of one of the most famous con-artists in history, Frank Abagnale, Jr.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN opened at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre in April 2011. The production received four Tony Awards nominations, including one for Best Musical, winning Best Actor in a Musical for Norbert Leo Butz. The production is rarely produced on bay area stages and this marks its second production in the Bay Area. It could be the most clever musical ever about a slick con man, not to mention one who already had swindled his first million before he was old enough to buy a drink. Frank Abagnale Jr. -- charmingly played by Torrey Rothstein, who is a present day Harold Hill who sells likable confidence rather than 50’s teen bee-bops to get away with his temporarily perfect crime.
Directed and produced by Leslie Hoelper, she guides a large cast of locals to the Carrington stage and brings to life this show based on true incidents. The story begins at Miami International Airport as Frank is captured by Agent Carl Hanratty (Steve Mallers) after years of pursuit. Frank, however, thinks the audience deserves to hear his version of the truth, and narrates his life as a hip, dance-heavy variety television show. Rothstein does a commendable job as the sly Frank, perhaps a bit miscast with his age range not filling that late teens look, but his clear tenor tone fits exquisitely in the show. The opening song “Live In Living Color” worked well to introduce the story and showed off the enthusiastic and highly energetic ensemble. Choreographed by Brett Blankenship, she had a difficult task to live up to the standards of Jerry Mitchell’s original work since the production is dance heavy.
Steve Mallers was a natural in playing the FBI agent - albeit coming off as looking too young on stage, he was able to act the scenes with conviction and smoothly navigate this whirlwind adventure with a sense of humor (his trademark laugh was infectious). Mallers showed skills as the agent and is a riot in “Don’t Break The Rules” exhibiting smooth dance skills and impeccable comic timing. In his first act solo, “The Man Inside the Clues,” Maller was believable and sincere in his delivery, which made the audience understand the predicament he got himself into.
We are then introduced to Frank’s family - his Dad Frank Sr, played by local favorite Steve Wilner and Mom Paula, played by the sultry Jennifer Nageotte. We learn how his parents met through their thoughtful song “The Pinstripes Are All that They See”, and how he ended up running away from his family singing “Someone Else’s Skin.” Wilner is dependable and genuine as the Dad - with strong vocals and excellent tap dancing skills. His duet with Rothstein “Butter Outta Cream” was a highlight of Act one. Vocal coach for the company Heather O' Brien, who had the difficult task of working with an out dated sound design, but her cast was solid and her solo actors well executed.
Hoelper has given the show a high end pace, which makes it fun to watch, and choreography by Blankenship adds to the 50s and early '60s pop of the charming sense of attitude of the musical. The supporting cast has their work cut for them since the story is full of large production numbers. “Jetset” features the fun and lively ensemble belting those pleasant harmonies under the music direction of Othello Johnson and his stunning thirteen member Orchestra. The likable Joey Alvarado, Jeremy Judge, and Jim Larimore plays various characters in the show but they are hilarious and steals the scene as FBI agents working with Haggerty. Meanwhile, Fiona Ryan, Allie Townsend, Audra Batter, Adriana Gomez, Merriweather Fields, and Vanity Olaires balances the hilarity of the lads with their alluring and flirty take as the Jetset Girls during the Airline year and as Nurses when Frank is Doctor who faints at the sight of blood.
The set is based on the main Airport scene as Terri Samuelson and Shari Steele's set design is simple for the many scene changes. A stair case remains center stage for most of the two hour performance. There are some surprises on stage - the tinsel is saved for a special scene late in the story. Marijke Siberman also added to the design with the large Jet that floats and the signs that let us know each setting. As the first act ends Frank and Carl reveal a mutual understanding for each other and they sing “My Favorite Time of Year” with the holiday setting. Joined by Wilner, Nageotte, and the rest of the cast, the song was mellow and and perfect transition to end the first part of the story.
The second act opens with the highly energetic “Doctor’s Orders” featuring the female ensemble. The energy was through the roof, but the poor sound system made it difficult to understand any of the words they were singing. The costumes designed by Bobbi MacLean and Wendy Schettino were fantastic and appropriate for the time period. It looked like they were custom-made and high quality as nurses, flight attendants, and in the theme of orange costumes for the big second act number “Our Family Tree” that feature the entire cast. Mona Klein worked with the men’s look and she kept Frank looking young in his highschool look even though Rothstein is an older man playing a 17 year old. Klein kept the FBI look classic trench coat and the flight crew very dapper. The many props including hospital gear and the awkward guns for the agents were created by Gayle Collins.
Frank’s love interest - Brenda Strong is played by the flawless Leslie Chocano. Rothstein and Chocano’s chemistry was on point and their duet “Seven Wonders” was done well in showcasing the foolproof voices of the actors. But Chocano truly soared in her solo “Fly Fly Away” as she showed both strength and vulnerability while hitting stratospheric high notes with ease.
Dave Briggs and Valerie Clear’s lighting design used the back scrim to change the mood of each production number, and a clever follow spot when each lead would break the fourth wall. Raul Velez struggled with his sound design, the large production numbers were lost, but fun to watch even though we could not hear what the company was singing about.
Mallers is capable as he performs another stunning song “Little Boy Be A Man” and a duet with Frank Jr in “Strange But True.” I question Hoelpers casting decision to have an older man play the part of teenager Abagnale Jr. There's a slew of talented young actors in the Peninsula including in the ensemble, that could have played the role of young Frank.
The chase eventually comes to end as Frank and Carl finally meet at the Miami International Airport which brings us back to the beginning of the show. This time Frank performs his 11 o'clock number “Goodbye” signifying his intention of ending his conning days and being content in living a normal life. Rothstein was caught in too much emotions in the beginning of the song but was able to reel it in and end the show in an uplifting manner.
The Redwood City audience was pleased with the two hour show. A well deserved “Standing O” for RCCT for bringing back what truly felt like a genuine community theatre production - combining the talents of local actors (seasoned and newbies), musicians, and creative team. It is a great time to support this company. Make sure to catch their show before their run ends and see if you too can be easily conned by a talented company to root for the charming anti-hero Frank Abagnale Jr.
Redwood City Community Theatre Presents
"CATCH ME IF YOU CAN"
By Terrence McNally, Marc Shaiman, and Scott Wittman
Directed by Lesley Hoelper, Music Director Othello Jefferson,
Choreographer Brett Blankenship
Through Aug. 28th
SEQUOIA HIGH SCHOOL Carrington Hall
1201 Brewster Ave., Redwood City, CA 94062
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours with a 15-min intermission
Tickets at http://www.rwctheatre.org/
Photo's by Tom Barry and Raissa Marchetti Koziov