Monday, May 30, 2016

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN - THE MUSICAL


Directed by Richard Block.
Musical Direction by Damien Slingsby.
Choreographed by Rachel Thornton.
Presented by Dramatic Productions.
Gungahlin College Theatre until  11th June 2016.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Josie Dunham (Brenda) and Alexander Club (Frank Abagnale Jnr.)

Photo: Kelly McGannon

Following their success with the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into The Woods”, Dramatic Productions score again with the first Canberra performances of “Catch Me If You Can”, a musical which premiered on Broadway in 2013.
 
Borrowing the majority of the plot from the 2002 film of the same name which was based on the diary of real life fraudster, Frank Abagnale Jnr., Terence McNally has crafted an amusingly, pithy libretto in which Abagnale sees his life as a Broadway musical in which he recounts details of his short career as a highly successful con-man who managed to defraud victims of millions of dollars, before, remarkably, settling down to work for the bank fraud department of the FBI.


Director, Richard Block has produced an assured and stylish production which successfully captures the essence of the Broadway musical through imaginative use of the relatively limited facilities of the Gungahlin College Theatre. The set design is colourful and uncluttered, and successfully conjures up a variety of locations, including an airport, a hospital, a variety of bedrooms and offices, while allowing the show to flow seamlessly through the many scenes. 

Alexander Clubb (Frank Abagnale Jnr) and ensemble 

Photo: Kelly McGannon

The musical numbers are excellently staged and performed, with Rachel Thornton’s eye-catching choreography cleverly disguising any lack of detail in the set. Damien Slingsby achieves a slick, professional sound with his excellent orchestra, with a team of pit singers augmenting the on-stage ensemble.

Block has been meticulous in putting together an outstanding cast. As Frank Abagnale Jnr, Alexander Clubb carries the show on his slim shoulders, in a remarkably charismatic performance that requires him to be on stage for almost the full duration of the show. He sings eloquently, dances with aplomb, and acts convincingly, and it does no harm that he bears an extraordinary resemblance to Leo DiCaprio, who played the role in the film.

As Abagnale’s nemesis, FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, whose obsession with capturing Abagnale leads to the unlikely, though apparently factual, conclusion, Gerard Ninnes also gives a compelling performance, and together they generate a real on-stage chemistry.


Jonathan Garland  (Frank Abagnale Snr.) and Alexander Clubb (Frank Abagnale Jnr)

Photo: Kelly McGannon

Among the strong cast, Jonathan Garland is outstanding as Abagnale’s alcoholic father, and Janelle McMenamin is impressive as Abagnale’s French mother, Paula.  Hayden Crosweller, Pierce Jackson and Andrew Howes score as Hanratty’s trio of incompetent off-siders.

Michael Miller and Debra Byrne provide delightful cameos as the parents of Abagnale’s love interest, Brenda, who unwittingly becomes the instrument of Abagnale’s downfall.  Josie Dunham gives a charmingly realised performance as Brenda, and almost stops the show with her power-house rendition of the big second act ballad “Fly, Fly Away”.

Throughout, the attractively costumed ensemble work tirelessly and enthusiastically to portray a variety of characters necessary in the telling of the story, while Craig Muller’s excellent sound design, which ensured that every lyric and line of dialogue was heard with absolute clarity, and Hamish McConchie’s  imaginative lighting design, were indicative of the careful attention evident in every aspect of this outstanding production.  Catch it while you can.


Alexander Club with  the air hostesses.
Photo: Kelly McGannon

This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 29th May 2016.

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