Theater Review: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (San Diego Musical Theater)

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by Milo Shapiro on March 5, 2022

in Theater-San Diego


Take the incredible life story of con-man Frank Abagnale, Jr., give it to Steven Spielberg to make a mulit-award winning film (Oscar nomination for best actor for Christopher Walken), and then give it to Terrence McNally to create the book for the musical? How could that not yield four Tony Awards, especially with great music from Hairspray‘s Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman every step of the way. So the question here was: Would SDMT, in their first production in two years, in a new and rush-to-be-ready theater do this show justice? Oh, yes they did.

Beau Brians captures the charm of Abagnale (real or imagined) in a melding of Frank Sinatra and Matthew Broderick. In fact, with Abagnale’s amazing ability to make everything fall so perfectly into place for himself, the show seems very reminiscent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off;  if Ferris had taken his capers way, way too far.

Yet the show hardly rides on Brian’s shoulders in this ensemble cast. Every bit as delightful on stage is his nemesis, FBI Agent Carl Hanratty.  Berto Fernandez clearly delights in delving into the internal turmoil of hating, admiring, relishing, pitying, and even caring for the subject of his greatest crime investigation, all with sensitivity, great humor, and strong vocals. The ensemble proves themselves worthy of the stage from the outset with what might have been the strongest production of the whole show, “Live in Living Color.” But the strength of that number takes nothing away from many fine performances under Musical Director  Richard Dueñez Morrison. Director Allison Spratt Pearce and  choreographer Xavier J. Bush made the most of every inch of SDMT’s smallest stage to date, keeping twenty-four actors and dancers in perpetual motion and moving large arching pieces of Mathys Herbert’s flexible set design to suit different environments.

Not knowing costume designer Janet Pitcher, it is difficult to say if she jumped for joy or wanted to jump off a bridge when she was presented with such a huge array of costume needs (from teams of naughty nurses to burlesque-fanned dancers to a giant walking bottle of Elmer’s Glue!) But even if she had a nervous breakdown getting it all together in time, she can take pride in such good work during her recovery.

One sweet moment catches us off-guard when Brenda (Adelaida Martinez), a character introduced late in the show, unexpectedly delivers the particularly moving and spellbinding ballad “Fly, Fly Away” revealing her personal growth and change due to Abagnale’s influence on her life (reminiscent of Mary Magdalene’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” in Jesus Christ Superstar).

For what it’s worth, this reviewer went into the theatre in a cranky mood after fighting with Windows 11 problems all day long, so SDMT had their hands full turning him around. And yet, as Abagnale likes to say, they clearly “made butter out of cream.”

photos by Ken Jacques

Catch Me If You Can
San Diego Musical Theatre
4650 Mercury Street  San Diego, CA 92111
Wd & Thurs at 7; Fri at 8; Sat at 3 and 8; Sun at 2
ends on March 13, 2022
for tickets, call 858.560.5740 or visit SDMT

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