Saturday, May 28, 2016


Book by Terrance McNally
Music by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Marc Shaiman
Directed by Richard Block
Dramatic Productions at Gungahlin College Theatre to 11 June

Review by Len Power 27 May 2016

With a music score by the ‘Hairspray’ team, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, you’d expect ‘Catch Me If You Can’ to be a winner of a musical.

Both the 2011 musical and the 2002 film are derived from the 1980 autobiography of Frank Abignale Junior, a young confidence man who obtained millions of dollars in forged checks, posed as an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer and attracted the attention of FBI agent, Carl Hanratty, who pursued Abignale across the country to bring him to justice.

Alexander Clubb is perfectly cast as Frank Abignale, singing and acting the role superbly.  Gerard Ninnes as Agent Carl Hanratty couldn’t seem to make his mind up whether he was playing his character straight or for laughs, but sang his numbers very well, especially ‘Don’t Break The Rules’, the best song in the show.  Jonathan Garland gave one of his most appealing performances ever as Frank’s father and his duet with Alexander Clubb, ‘Butter Outta Cream’, was very well sung.  There was terrific character and vocal work from others in the large cast, especially Janelle McMenamin, Debra Byrne, Josie Dunham, Michael Miller, Hayden Crosweller, Pierce Jackson and Andrew Howes.

Musical direction by Damien Slingsby was very strong and the orchestra played the music well.  However, sound balance was a problem with the orchestra too loud overall, making song lyrics hard to hear.  It was especially troublesome when dialogue had to be spoken over the music.

Costumes by Kitty McGarry worked generally well.  Women’s skirts would not have been that short in those days, of course, but it’s forgivable here in a sexy song when there is the danger of the girls looking dowdy these days with correct length dresses.  However, we saw far too much of the nurses’ underwear in the number, ‘Doctor’s Orders’.  What should have been fun became somewhat sleazy instead.  Apart from that particular dance, Rachel Thornton’s choreography was simple but effective and matched the era of the show very well.  The minimal set worked very well, giving the cast a large playing area with the orchestra placed behind them on a higher level.

Richard Block directed the show strongly, keeping the pace and scene changes moving swiftly.  He has obtained strong performances from his whole cast and produced an entertaining show.  However, the show’s creators didn’t come up with anything special to make you prefer it to the 2002 non-musical film on which it is based.  The second act isn’t as strong as the first act with too many unnecessary songs slowing the show down.  Nevertheless, it’s great to have an opportunity to see a musical which hasn’t played Canberra before.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound 92.7 FM’s ‘Artcetera’ program from 9am on Saturdays.