Scotch'n'Soda: Catch Me If You Can
Everyone dreams of being the hero of their own story, and Frank Abagnale Jr. is no exception. Like many, he dreamed of a fascinating life, but lived his life like no other.
Based on the autobiography and the 2002 film of the same name, Catch Me If You Can recounts the tale of former criminal Frank William Abagnale Jr. and his teenage heists: impersonating a pilot, doctor, and lawyer all while making a fortune. Scotch’n’Soda’s production certainly makes its mark bringing Catch Me If You Can to the stage, serving this musical with a rather bitter introduction and a sweet aftertaste, all with its twists and rocks.
Frank Abagnale Jr. (Clayton Edwards), is first introduced to the audience as a 16-year old, caught in the middle of his parents’ infidelity and subsequent divorce. The character himself is an acquired taste for the audience. Almost like a Sour Patch-Kid, Frank comes off as a little sour at first, almost unlikable, whiny, and stubborn. Even when he’s impersonating a pilot, Frank seems a bit too outwardly naive: in real life, Frank’s apparent lack of confidence while pulling off his stunt as a pilot would probably get him caught right away. It wasn’t until his first attempt to charm his way out of being arrested that the audience finally got a glimpse of the hidden genius behind Frank Abagnale Jr. The sweet charisma, chutzpah, and brilliance that gave Frank the ability to scheme his way was finally revealed. For me, that was the turn-around point when I started laughing with him instead of at him.
From then on, until the 11 o’clock number “Goodbye,” I found myself rooting for Frank despite the gravity of his crimes. The emerging maturity of the character and his emotional development contributed to a far more enjoyable presence throughout the second act, as well as during the finale.
Carl Hanratty (Quincy Eaton), the seemingly antagonistic FBI agent bent on catching Frank, was the metaphorical Cadbury Cream Egg: tough on the outside while emotional on the inside. Slightly more comic than truly intimidating, Hanratty’s supposedly hidden ‘flamboyance’ added to the giggles scattered throughout the audience. His signature number complemented by Eaton’s superb dancing skills (appropriately titled “Don’t Break the Rules”) was certainly one to remember. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever get the image of Hanratty channeling his inner Fred Astaire out of my head any time soon. In short though, his character is quite stagnant throughout the show, almost absent of development, but nevertheless manages to leave a pleasant impression.
Though Catch Me If You Can is a story of Frank’s escapades and Hanratty’s chase, the supporting characters certainly make their mark long after the show. Some notable figures include Brenda Strong (Zoe Lehn), the eventual love interest of Frank, who successfully subverts the all-too-familiar Mary Sue trope while playing the grounded foil to Frank’s chaos. Lehn’s strong (no pun intended) vocal range and acting abilities made her character likable and turned her performance of “Fly, Fly Away” from a simple ballad to a vocal, tear-jerking showpiece. Meanwhile, the FBI agents Branton, Cod, and Dollar (Grant Martin, Olivia Snavely, and Nathan Blinn, respectively) provided the largest source of comic relief throughout the show. Starting off as barely laughable through their mutual ‘hazing’ antics, they ‘bring the big guns’ (still no pun intended) through the second half delivering laugh-out-loud, slapstick-like comedy gold as they accompany Hanratty on his crime-fighting quest.
While I highly appreciate the efforts made by the lighting crew to use a colorful variety to represent various physical and emotional turning points in the plot, I personally found the set itself to be rather empty. For a musical (and a protagonist) that seeks a life “in living color,” “la dolce vita,” and “butter ‘outta cream,” I was expecting a bit more embellishment. The minimalist set, while not unfamiliar, seemed unsuitable for Catch Me If You Can, given its plot about Frank living the stylish, glamorous, and fast-paced life.
As highly anticipated as they were, the musical numbers certainly did not disappoint. The orchestra, despite the surprisingly small size, delivered a powerful sound that carried energy and musicality. (However, the proximity of the not-really-in-the-pit orchestra made the actors slightly difficult to hear throughout the show.) My personal favorite, “Live in Living Color”, literally set the stage in the best energetic and colorful way possible. “Butter ‘Outta Cream” and “Little Boy Be a Man” served as jazzy songs describing the two contrasting types of father-son relationships. The former, performed by Frank and his father, and reprised with Frank and Hanratty, hints at a friendly relationship, almost confidant-like, and serves as an homage to the American dream. Meanwhile, the latter describes an authoritarian style of parenting, as well as a source of bonding (and good chemistry) between Hanratty and Frank’s father. And I’m sure that I will hear the romantic and sweet “Seven Wonders” at weddings, anniversaries, and proposals for years to come. Last but not least, “Goodbye” had me in awe of Edwards’ tenor and acting ability as he portrayed a changed, slightly saccharine, Frank Abagnale Jr., ready to leave a life of crime. It was truly the best farewell I have ever heard.
All in all, a job well done by Scotch’n’Soda Theatre for delivering a feel-good performance with memorable numbers and characters.
Now excuse me as I make “Live in Living Color” my phone alarm.