OREM — On Friday night, I had the exciting opportunity to see my very first production at SCERA in Orem. Based on everything I had heard about this company, my expectations were high. I am pleased to say I was not disappointed.
With a libretto by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Catch Me If You Can tells the true story of the life of con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr. The plot closely follows the 2002 film of the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, with the addition of exciting and catchy musical numbers. The music in this show is fantastic, and for this reason, it is one of my all-time favorite musicals.
The show opens by throwing us immediately into the action, in the middle of a shootout at the Miami airport. One of the very first things I noticed was the multi-layered set by scenic artists Shawn Herrera (who also doubled as the choreographer) and Faith Sage. This creative set design allowed for interesting levels throughout the show, without being too distracting and taking away from the scenes. I loved the use of the balcony and the stairs throughout the show, which easily helped us believe we really were at a hotel, at the Strong family’s home, at an apartment complex, or at a police station. At one point, the set also included a fun dropdown featuring various popular travel destinations around the world.
From the ensemble’s first entrance in the opening scene of the show, I immediately noticed how engaging and professional this cast was. The ensemble members are animated actors and stellar vocalists, and they enhanced every scene they were a part of. Each member of the ensemble gets a moment to shine individually at some point in the show. I particularly loved “Jet Set,” where each of the female ensemble members got a chance to show off their powerhouse vocals as a soloist. Every single member of the ensemble shined as both an impressive actor and a singer. I commend them for their dedication to their numerous characters. Director Michael Carrasco and music director Allison Books worked hard to perfect the acting and vocals of these exceptional performers.
One of my favorite numbers in the show was “Don’t Break the Rules,” which was absolutely exploding with energy from the ensemble. The choreography by Herrera was fun and entertaining, but could have been performed more cleanly. There were a few moments throughout this scene and other parts of the show where I was distracted by ensemble members missing steps, which took away from the scene. But despite a few missteps, the ensemble was still one of the main highlights of the show.
The costume design by Deborah Bowman helped the ensemble to shine even more. The costumes in this show are beautiful. They were elaborate, detailed, and flashy when the scene called for it, but also very time period appropriate to convince us that this show was taking place in the 1960s. I particularly loved the matching 1960s style vintage flight attendant uniforms. The beautifully detailed costumes added a lot of depth to the show and were pleasing to the eye.
A. J. Nielsen plays Frank Abagnale Jr., the leading character of the show. Nielsen is age-appropriate and a strong actor and singer, though he did struggle with intonation on some of his higher notes, particularly during “Live in Living Color.” He also had some trouble with seamlessly transitioning between registers from his lower register to his falsetto throughout the show. Nielsen did, however, have some fantastic acting moments. His chemistry with both Carl Hanratty (played by Mark Gordon) and his character’s father, Frank Abagnale Sr. (played by Nathaniel Noyes), was excellent and very believable, although Noyes did not seem to be age appropriate to play Frank Sr. because Noyes and Nielsen appeared to be around the same age. However, their skilled acting and believable relationship helped to make me accept this casting choice. Noyes and Nielsen had some very emotionally moving scenes and played off of each other well, especially during the final scene in the bar between Frank Sr. and Frank Jr.
Gordon was one of the strongest performers in the cast. Gordon is an incredible vocalist (his voice was as smooth as butter and very pleasing to listen to), and an even better actor. His comedic timing is impeccable, and most of my laugh-out-loud moments were due to his lines and his excellent comedic delivery. The closing scene between Frank Jr. and Carl Hanratty had me in tears, something that has never before happened to me while watching this show. I commend both Nielsen and Gordon for this powerful and moving moment.
Another standout performer was Samantha Frisby as Paula Abagnale. Frisby is beautiful and regal as the elegant mother of Frank Jr. Her singing voice is lovely, which she got a chance to showcase during her song “Don’t Be a Stranger.” However, she could have projected a bit more on her spoken lines. Due to a lack of projection, the stoic nature of her character, and her French accent, some of her spoken lines were lost. Her portrayal of the character was still beautiful and strong overall, though.
Rebecca Boberg plays the love interest of Frank Jr., Brenda Strong. Boberg steals the show in Act 2 with her powerful rendition of “Fly, Fly Away,” which is perhaps the most famous musical number from Catch Me If You Can. “Fly, Fly Away” is a difficult song to sing for the best of vocalists — and also one of my favorite musical theatre songs of all time. So, my expectations for this song were very high. And Boberg nailed the song. Along with her acting packing a powerful emotional punch during this song, her belt was powerful and clear without being overpowering and sounding like she was straining her voice, and her riffs were clean and exactly on-pitch. This is no easy feat, especially for a young actress, and I again commend Brooks for her work with Boberg on this song.
With all of the impressive elements of this production, from the set design, to the costumes, to the stand-out performers, Catch Me If You Can is excellent and well worth seeing. Catch Me If You Can may have been the first production I saw at SCERA, but it certainly will not be the last. This fun, entertaining, and well-done production made me a fan of this theatre, and many audience members will leave this production feeling moved and singing these catchy tunes for weeks. The show is appropriate for audiences of all ages, although audience members should be advised that the show contains gunshot sound effects that could be frightening to young children. I highly recommend Catch Me If You Can for fans of the musical, those who have seen the movie, or newcomers to the story.