If self-invention is the American Myth, Catch Me If You Can is the ultimate example. The musical is based on the true-life story of Frank Abagnale Jr., who was touted as one of the greatest con men of all time. The story was a 2002 Steven Spielberg movie, with Leonardo DeCaprio as the lead. Interestingly enough, the real Frank Abagnale was quoted as saying that DeCaprio wasn’t “suave enough” to play the role. Go figure.
From the beginning, we see Frank Abagnale Jr. arrested at a Miami airport for an array of misdeeds and misdirections. Abagnale posed as a doctor, lawyer, and even an airline pilot, as well as becoming a virtuoso in the art of passing bad checks. Actor Brett Stockman’s Abagnale is charming, and his voice lends itself to really nice moments in the show. Carl Hanratty is the FBI agent who becomes obsessed with tracking down the forger, much to Abagnale’s delight.
The character is actually a composite of several agents who worked to catch Abagnale. Jonathan Mulberg gives us some funny moments of deadpan as he portrays the meticulous FBI agent who insists on justice. Moreover, his energetic tap number, “Don’t Break the Rules,” gives the audience a little more insight into his character as he warns us of the dangers of breaking the law. As Abagnale’s love interest Brenda Strong, Julia Braxton also gives a stellar performance of “Fly, Fly Away” in the second act.
Director Shanna Christian decided on a set that was minimal and mostly included rolling desks, a Pan Am Airlines ticket counter, and living room furniture for the Abagnales’ home, with no permanent set pieces or backdrops, but it worked. At the beginning of the show, ensemble member Karen Whitlock, Pan Am Airlines hostess, instructed the audience on the proper application of COVID masks — as opposed to the oxygen masks — a funny nod to the reality of theater in times of the pandemic.
The choreography from Mary Shelton is, for the most part, enjoyable and peppy. However, Maureen Longanecker, who plays Paula Abagnale in the show, was also made part of some ensemble numbers. The actress is instantly recognizable; although in community theater, it’s understandable that sometimes you have to rely on strong voices to build the ensemble. That said, Longanecker could have probably sung backstage so that her character wasn’t compromised. A strong nod of approval can be awarded to ensemble member and dance captain Sophia Martenese. Her presence in dance numbers is simply captivating.
Why did Abagnale do it? Ironically, in real life, he served his time and went on to become an undercover agent for the FBI. In an interview, he stated, “I had to grow up very quickly … but my survival became more of a game. I was an opportunist, so when I saw an opening I asked myself, ‘Could I get away with that?’ Then, there was the satisfaction of actually getting away with it.”
Catch Me If You Can plays one more weekend, November 19–21, 2021, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm, presented by Sterling Playmakers performing at The Theatre at Seneca Ridge, 98 Seneca Ridge Dr, Sterling, VA. For tickets ($15 general admission), buy them at the door or purchase them online.
COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place. Please see our most up-to-date policies and procedures related to COVID. These protocols are subject to change at any time based on the venue and guidance from Federal, state, or local government.
The November 20, 2021, performance will be ASL interpreted.
Catch Me If You Can
Book by Terrence McNally
Music and Lyrics by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman
Directed by Shanna Christian
Produced by Lauren Baker and Angela Hepola