Monday, May 2, 2016

Catch Me If You Can

Book by:  Terrance McNally

Music by:  Marc Shaiman

Lyrics by:  Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman

Venue:  Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Avenue, Aurora, CO.

Running Time:  2 hours, 40 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission). 

Date of Performance:  Friday, April 29, 2016. 

If you’ve seen the 2002 film version of Catch Me If You Can (hereafter Catch), you know that this is a true story.  Con man Frank Abagnale Jr. really did have at least eight different identities, including an airline pilot, a physician, and a lawyer.  He was a master rubber check writer, and he served nearly five years in prison for the crimes he committed before his 22nd birthday.  The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale Jr., was nominated for two Academy Awards.

The film spawned a Broadway musical version in March 2011, but it closed later that year after garnering mixed reviews.  The current revival at the Aurora Fox is a no holds barred feast for the eyes and ears that will make audiences forget that some of details in the story have been replaced with production numbers.  

On a technical level, Catch is impeccable.  Scenic Designer Brandon Case decorates the stage with 1960’s era touches that suggest the mood of the culture (as opposed to the “counter culture” of that time).  The set starts with a large egg shaped opening, trimmed with a few miles of yarn strung carefully around the opening.  The yarn strings also appear upstage and at downstage house right.  It’s a marvelous touch; when lit by Seth Allison’s lighting design, the set creates shape, texture, and a pastel color palette reflecting off geometric shapes of stretched yarn.  Case has also designed nine 1960’s hanging light fixtures for Allison. Those fixtures are also constructed with stretched yarn and multicolored lamps, seamlessly integrating the set and the lighting.

Costume designer Nikki Harrison has developed multiple eye popping outfits for the ensemble, and period perfect attire for the others in the cast.  When the ensemble hits the stage for the The Pinstripes Are All They Can See number, Harrison gave meaning to the title.  All I could see was the pinstripes.  The ensemble was gorgeous in Yankee pinstripes, tight pants, and midriff baring tops.  I would take this team over the Yankees anytime.  I think my jaw actually dropped; the ensemble gives a new meaning to the term “Fantasy Baseball.”  Ms. Harrison hit it out of the park.  I don’t know if these ladies could hit a fast ball, but they can definitely throw some amazing curves around the stage. 
Tim Howard (Frank Abagnale Jr.)

Tim Howard is Frank Abagnale, Jr., and he’s a fine fit for the part.  He has a youthful appearance, a strong voice, and convincing dark side.  While the point of the story is his eventual redemption, Howard spends most of his time bouncing checks, conning nurses, and frustrating FBI Special Agent Carl Hanratty (Keegan Flaugh).  Howard’s performance must, by definition, include charm, appeal, and an unforeseen criminal mind.  Howard delivers on all these requirements, juggling the charm and the crime without dropping any of the balls he has to keep in the air.

Keegan Flaugh (Special Investigator Carl Hanratty).
Keegan Flaugh, for his part, combines a law enforcement personna with a soft side.  He admires Abagnale’s skill, and ultimately helps him become a productive member of society.  Flaugh adds just the right touches of punishment and redemption to make his character work.

If there’s a show stopping moment in Catch (and there is), it’s in the second act when Sharon Kay White (as Carol Strong) and Michael O’Shea (as Roger Strong) welcome Frank Jr. into the family with the song (Our) Family Tree.  It starts as a solo for White, and ends up as a full blown production number with O’Shea, Lindsay Fuller (as Brenda Strong) and the ensemble.  It’s a turning point in the story for Frank Jr., and it comes off as a sincere and poignant family event, and as a blockbuster song and dance tribute to families.
Sharon Kay White (Carol Strong), Tim Howard (Frank
Abagnale, Jr.) & Lindsay Fuller (Brenda Strong).

Director/Choreographer Piper Lindsay Arpan has put together an excellent cast and crew; Catch is indeed a catch.  Arpan’s choreography is creative and provocative, and her ensemble makes every production number a treat for both the eyes and the ears.  Arpan’s direction is strong; every detail of Catch seems deliberate and functional.  When Keegan Flaugh and Tim Howard sing and dance their way through the finale (Stuck Together), we realize that every moment before that finale leads to bringing these two characters together in the end.  

I would be remiss if I did not mention the abundance of talent in the ensemble.  I have seen at least two of these ladies in leading roles for other productions.  Malerie Jo was a marvelously Modern Millie, and Norell Moore will always be my favorite Sister of Swing.  The singing, dancing, and acting talents of all six ensemble members is impressive.  When these six ladies knock out a production number, it's like a 3 ring circus.  You don't know which ring to watch because they're all spectacular.

There were tunes in Catch that seemed to occasionally go a little pitchy, but that may be due partly to the tricky acoustics in this venue.  El Armstrong’s sound design takes into account the design of the theater; he keeps the orchestra distinct without overpowering the voices.  The actors are miked, and there was not a hint of feedback or static.  Music Director Andrew Fisher gets yeoman efforts from his 4 piece group; they laid down the sound track flawlessly.  The orchestra occupies a small space upstage during the performance, which, for me, is ideal.  In a musical, the musicians are critical.  Putting them out of sight offstage or in a pit does not give them the exposure they deserve.

Catch the play is a musical: the film Catch Me If You Can is more or less a documentary.  While there are obviously differences, both have their strong points.  If you’re looking for great story telling and details, the film is excellent.  If you’re looking for reality based entertainment, the play is your best bet.  However, the play may leave you scratching your head, because details matter.  

Catch Me If You Can is very good at what it is designed to do:  entertain in the best Broadway tradition.  The Aurora Fox production is a cranked up, full throttle, sexy version of a true story.  Even if you’ve seen it before, on film or on the stage, this is a production that always seems new, fresh, and engaging.  Plus, it has Pinstripes.  I’m going to be replaying that tune in head for a long time.

Cast of Catch Me If You Can.  Set with hanging light globes and egg shaped opening.  Orchestra upstage.


This show is suitable for teens and up.  There is free parking in the nearby city of Aurora lots and free street parking near to and around the theater.

Catch Me If You Can has a Mother’s Day promotion, with half price tickets for the Sunday May 8, 2:00 PM performance.  Use code MOMSDAY when ordering tickets.

This show closes on May 15, 2016.

Photo Credit:  Aurora Fox & Christine Fisk, photographer.



Director & Choreographer:  Piper Lindsay Arpan

Music Director:  Andrew Fischer

Technical Director:  Brandon Case

Scenic Designer:  Brandon Case

Master Carpenter:  Kyle Scoggins

Electricians:  Brett Maughan, Jeremiah Miller, Matt Ardoin

Lighting Design:  Seth Allison

Sound Design:  El Armstrong

Sound Operator:  Curt Behm

Production Manager:  Jen Orf

Production Coordinator:  Jordon Brockman

Production Assistant:  Robert Michael Sanders

Props:  Lindsay Sullivan

Costume Designer:  Nikki Harrison

Stage Manager:  Maegan Burnell

Assistant Stage Manager:  Kelcey Pfluger


Frank Abagnale Jr:  Tim Howard

Carl Hanratty:  Keegan Flaugh

Frank Abagnale Sr.:  Andy Sievers

Paula Abagnale:  Heather Lacy

Brenda:  Lindsay Fuller

Roger Strong:  Michael O’Shea

Carol Strong:  Sharon Kay White

Agent Branton:  Leonard Barrett Jr.

Agent Cod:  Jonathan Sharp

Agent Dollar:  Peter Elliot

Ensemble:  McKayla Marso, Malerie Jo, Norrell Moore, Danielle Scheib, Seles VanHuss, Alexa Bernal


Music Director/Keyboards:  Andrew Fischer

Drums:  Larry Ziehl

Guitar:  Dave DeMichelis

Keyboards:  Blake Nawa’a

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