Review by Danny Gaisin
Ages ago, while flying back from Italy, the airline was showing the Spielberg movie with Di Caprio & Hanks about the actual larcenous antics of Frank Abagnale Jr. Unfortunately, a tailwind brought us to YYZ about 15 minutes early and so I never found out how the story ended…until now. Meadowvale Music Theatre is presenting the musical version of ‘CATCH ME IF YOU CAN’ and the plot remains (almost) true to the actual saga. By age 19, the young man had conned the system for about 2 million dollars. Talk about youthful enterprise!
By audacious bluff; precise costuming; a little study effort, but mostly supreme self-confidence; Abagnale could successfully pose as an airline pilot; surgeon; court prosecutor and cheque ‘kiter’ par excellance. His adversary was F.B.I. Bank Fraud investigator Carl Hanratty who ultimately caught and jailed the young felon.
Naturally, the two protagonists possess the show… one (Frank Jr.) as a sort of negative hero (think Robin Hood or Billy the Kid); the other as a determined lawman (think Gerard of ‘The Fugitive’ or Javert of ‘Les Miz’), fixated on his quarry. Interpreting the young man, Nicholas Cunha gives a superb rendering of youth; confidence; charisma and innate ‘cuteness’. He even has a Trudeau forelock for all those Liberals in the audience. He can sing; act; dance and smirk enchantingly. This is an opportune role for any thespian and Cunha milks it for all its worth. This is an award-winning portrayal in an award-winning production.
His nemesis is played for comic relief and Martin Buote utilizes every slip-up or close call to portray exasperation not only with his own failures, but that of his Federal cohorts. Fortunately, the director foregoes any ‘Keystone Kop’ shtick. During the increasingly emergent mutual respect moments; Buote demonstrates a reined-in intensity and psychological sentiment that is endearing. The love interest is contributed by Jenn Johnson and she brings both acting and singing skill to her role. Frank Sr. is Derek Faulconer and he makes his influence as well as societal situation a contributing factor to his son’s life decisions. The mother is played by Leslie Carney whose voice is one of the more outstanding of the entire cast.
The direction and cohesion of such an enterprise resides with Renee Beiforte whose expertise has been acknowledged in previous O.A.R. columns. She also takes responsibility for choreographing Catch Me …and the chorus numbers throughout the play are all standout intervals. The stewardesses of Jet Set; the cops of ‘Don’t Break the Rules’; the ‘Family Tree’ number and especially the opening- “Live in Living Color” are about as professional as community theatre needs be. In the LILC effort keep your eyes out for a young lady in white & blue costume; Katherine Mines has a seriously high wattage smile that never wavers. Back to direction; Beiforte has incorporated some creative imagery. When Abagnale is contemplating making his own checks; 3 ensemble members carry a huge Swiss Army Knife™; ink Bottle & Elmer’s Glue™ bottle to heavy handedly underscore the point. Her almost permissive manner lets the principals as well as support cast interject some personal attributes to their portrayals; it also makes the preparatory efforts non-drudging; reflecting in the overall production’s look & feel.
The costuming, including the male cast, is more than attractive, it’s even slightly erotic with lots of legs; all of which are superbly synchronized…like N.Y.’s Rockettes.
“CATCH ME IF YOU CAN” is an audience’s (& cast/crew-members’) treat from overture to curtain and has already been added to O.A.R.’s Top Ten candidate’s list for 2017. The play will be at the Meadowvale Theatre until Feb. 26th.