[THEATRE REVIEW] CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: THE MUSICAL @ The National Theatre Review (2023)
Tony Burge, who assumes the role of lead FBI agent Carl Hanratty chasing boyish con man Frank Abagnale Jr. excels in Cloc’s production of Catch Me If You Can.
He is strong vocally and as an actor, with a fine command of comic timing, which is a key ingredient in the musical.
With book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, it is based on the 2002 film, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.
Abagnale Jr. (played by understudy Daniel Steer) is a convincing liar. He is a shyster extraordinaire, a trait he learnt from his father, Frank Abagnale Sr. (Ric Birkett).
As a teenager in the 1960s, recognising that clothes maketh the man, for a week he got away with impersonating a substitute French teacher.
With his parents’ marriage in trouble, he runs away from home and learns how to forge cheques.
In no time, he has swindled his way into a job as a Pan Am co-pilot and, later, as a doctor.
He finds that all it takes is a counterfeit document or two and the gift of the gab.
Hot on his tail is the FBI, but cornering him proves far from straightforward.
And then, after snaring an overnight hospital job, Abagnale Jr. meets the love of his life, young nurse Brenda Strong (India Morris).
Cloc brings impressive production values and choreography to Catch Me If You Can.
Nine large video screens surround the stage and signpost the settings*, complemented by a handful of simple, but effective props.
The set designer is also the director, Richard Perdriau, while the choreographer is Felicity Bender.
The costuming, by Victoria Horne, is another impressive feature of the show.
Neatly positioned at the back of the stage, with musical direction from Tony Toppi, the band is excellent.
The chorus numbers really hit the mark and Daniel Steer makes a decent fist of the lead role, notwithstanding some dropped lines.
His confidence and stagecraft grow in the second act.
India Morris exudes charm and vulnerability as Abagnale Jr.’s girlfriend cum fiancé. She nails her one solo number.
But the standout for me was Tony Burge, who – as Carl Hanratty – is a commanding force throughout.
Catch Me If You Can The Musical is a fun-filled romp, which indicates that truth is stranger than fiction.
It is playing at The National Theatre in St Kilda until 27th May, 2023.
* The only issue with the images on the video screen came very near the end of the show.
That is when the pre-prepared package had the intended lead, Will Woods, as Frank Abagnale Jr. Of course, the problem was – as referenced early – in the matinee I attended Woods wasn’t present because he fell ill.
Review by Alex First. Photography by Ben Fon