Theatre Review: Catch Me If You Can – The Musical

Catch Me If You Can – The Musical needs to definitely be caught by anyone who loves a good musical and a great time out at the theatre

Presented by: Northern Light Theatre Company
Reviewed: 17 March, 2023

They say that the truth can be stranger and more unbelievable than fiction. This is certainly the case with con man Frank Abagnale Jr, the basis and protagonist of the non-fiction book, film and stage musical Catch Me If You Can.

Abagnale wasn’t just a con man, he had flair! He started his career at the tender age of 16, tricking students at the college he was attending that he was a relief French teacher and growing from there. Throughout the next few years he conned millions out of unsuspecting dupes by passing himself off as, and actually performing the tasks of, an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer to name just a few. All without any qualifications in those fields.

I mentioned that he had flair. This word can also be used to describe Northern Light Theatre Company’s production of Catch Me If You Can – The Musical. Under Michelle Davy’s direction, this production sings!! Usually a director of youth musicals (at which she is very good), this is Davy’s first time directing adults and she carries it off with aplomb. She had a very clear vision of what she wanted this production to be and has achieved it in spades. Davy has very obviously worked extremely close with her production team and the entire cast. The energy and vitality that exudes from the stage is a huge salute to her attention to detail and directorial skills.

Music Director Serena Cann brings out a real 60s Big Band feel from her exceptional band. Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti’s choreography is stunning and brilliantly realised by all cast. She gives us Go-Go dancing, Vegas style show girls, waltzes and bluesy Jazz styles perfectly. It needs to be pointed out that under her watch there are no people displaying two left feet and not one person ever looks at their feet – great stuff.

As con man, Abagnale Jr, Deon Martino-Williams is excellent. He has the unenviable task of making a criminal likeable and carries it off one hundred per cent. There seems to be an unstoppable energy to this young man’s performance. Martino-Williams is a definite triple threat, especially when he comes to just smoothly soaring into the high notes. This reviewer has just one slight niggle – Martino-Williams tends to gabble from time to time, especially in his monologues.

Another true triple threat is David MacGillivray playing obsessed, married to his work, FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. His is the definitive portrayal of a man obsessed with doing the right thing by the Law, but at the same time developing an almost fatherly respect for Abagnale when he finds out how young he really is. Even though MacGillivray and Martino-Williams don’t have a lot of scenes together, the audience can feel a bond between their characters and their respect for one another as actors.

Hanratty has three FBI Agents assisting him; the straight-laced Agent Cod (Nick Mitchell), the slightly cynical Agent Branton (Kyle Mcauliffe) and the young, gun obsessed Agent Dollar (Thomas Sheldon). All three inhabit their characters well, with Sheldon in particular showing a fine flair for comedy.

Melanie Cowmeadow portrays Frank’s eventual love interest, Brenda Strong and what a find this young lady is! Reminding this reviewer of a young Lisa McCune, Cowmeadow gives us a lovely portrayal of natural innocence without ever being soppy, and boy, when she starts to sing WOW!! To hear her perform her Act Two solo, Fly, Fly Away is entirely worth the price of admission alone. Brenda’s parents are played well by Gus Smith and Claire Birbeck, with the latter making a wonderful future mother-in-law from Hell. She’s so comically hateful, you just want to push her head first into her soup tureen.

Frank’s parents are played nicely realistic by Gavin Cianci, giving his best performance that this reviewer has seen from him, and Ali Craig being perfectly classy with a wonderful French accent. It must be pointed out that both Cianci and Martino-Williams rock their Act One duet Butter Outta Cream – Ol’ Blue Eyes and Dino live again!! The rest of the cast/ensemble (and it’s a BIG one) are more than worth their weight in gold in making this show as wonderful as it is.

Davy’s and Sue Winston’s costume design are totally period appropriate, Davy and John Sheehan have designed a good looking minimalist set topped off superbly by Sam Davy’s great graphic designs (in particular, watch out for the bullet holes appearing in the shooting range scene). The only slight downer, at least on opening night, is that the lights seemed unnecessarily dark in some places and there were times when lights and spots seemed slow in coming up. At the start of scenes, lights should not wait for the actors to speak but rather the other way around.

But, that being said, this production of Catch Me If You Can – The Musical needs to definitely be caught by anyone who loves a good musical and a great time out at the theatre. Go and watch Northern Light make butter out of cream (it will make sense if you see the show).

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey

Venue: Shedley Theatre
Season: Until 1st April, 2023
Tickets: From $24

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