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REVIEW: Catch Catch Me If You Can (Chameleon Theatre Circle)

Austin Stole, Maria Isabel Gonzalez, and John Goodrich in The Chameleon Theatre Circle’s production of Catch Me If You Can. Photo by Daniel K. McDermott for Sinséar Productions.

Let’s say just one thing about the plot of Catch Me If You Can, the biographical musical about the life and escapades of Frank William Abagnale, Jr.: If you think the events in the musical are fantastic, you should read the book. It’s a pretty extraordinary tale and a great primer for smooth-talking your way into and out of a lot of situations. And now on to Chameleon Theatre Circle’s production of the musical, now playing at the Ames Center in Burnsville.

John Goodrich (L) as Carl Hanratty and Austin Stole (R) as Frank Abagnale, Jr. Photo by Daniel K. McDermott for Sinséar Productions.
John Goodrich (L) as Carl Hanratty and Austin Stole (R) as Frank Abagnale, Jr. Photo by Daniel K. McDermott for Sinséar Productions.

Catch Me If You Can leans pretty hard on two central characters: Abagnale, Jr. (Austin Stole) and Carl Hanratty (John Goodrich), his indefatigable pursuer. Goodrich plays a good straight man to Stole’s foil with a smile; it’s a dynamic that helps to sustain the show through some of its more forgettable numbers. Stole has all of the charm that the part demands, with a pleasant light voice that carries well; in the show’s more introspective numbers, he shows more of the youth of the astonishingly youthful conman.

Goodrich is a fine comic actor, but seemed vocally under the weather at the performance reviewed, with some hoarse higher notes. The vocal stars of this show are Stole and Nicole Korbisch (playing Paula Abagnale), whose moving performance underlays the key Act I finale quartet “My Favorite Time of Year.”

As shows go, the highly tapered, constant scene-changing format doesn’t leave a lot of room for directorial subtlety, but director Avian Jangula keeps things moving well and makes good use of the multiple entrance points allowed by the set. You never know quite where someone’s going to pop up to start the next scene, which isn’t bad.

One of the weaknesses of the Abagnale, Jr/Hanratty axis in this work is that we barely get to know most of the rest of the cast. Brenda Strong (Brianna Keener)’s “Fly, Fly Away” is a case in point – a lovely song delivered with a pleasant voice, but we barely know the character and she’s had so little substantial dialogue that it has less gravitas than if it were simply delivered in isolation. This particular song is partly an artifact of earlier revisions of the musical – many of the lyrics reference things that the character isn’t supposed to know. These are hardly the cast’s fault, but it’s weaknesses like this in the script and score that make the bunny costumes more memorable at the end of the evening than several of the musical numbers. How many bar drinking songs were there, again?

That said, the music is pleasing to listen to if not always memorable, and rendered with a well-tuned 10-piece band under Dale Miller’s musical direction. Scenes pass quickly and this particular configuration of the space gives much better acoustic results than some of the arrangements last season. Come for a stroll in Burnsville, stay for a musical.

Now, about that French accent…

Catch Me If You Can plays at the Ames Center Black Box Theatre in Burnsville through April 24.

Basil Considine