Ensemble Production Scores Big On Music, Humour And Visual Beauty
by Brian Hay
(Catch Me If You Can runs until November 1)
The thing that sinks in as this show progresses is that it’s a lot funnier than what the subject matter suggests. But … why not? The true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. is so preposterous it defies the imagination.
Cian Poore plays the main character with a convincing amount of swagger and a degree of charm that insures his like-ability. It doesn’t matter that he’s a crook because he’s an everyman, and also, a nice guy. His portrayal of Abagnale is of a person who wants those close, including his adversary, to be happy and well. In his natural range Poore was excellent, hitting the highest notes and navigating extended passages with authority. He struggled with a few of the tenor sections but had been sick all day. What he was able to do when under the weather was impressive enough. If he’s back to 100% before the run concludes his performances will be stunning.
Most of the supporting roles were small and were handled by people who also worked within the ensemble. John Reid gave a compassionate sense to the role of Abagnale’s father, an individual suited to con artistry, but just honest enough to keep from embracing the lifestyle. Karoline Lobsinger effectively captured the contradictions inherent in Franks mother, the woman who realized her infatuation with her husband had been a youthful fancy. Laura Mangnall brought biting cynicism to the part of the dream girl, ‘Cheryl Ann’ while Andy Shaw, Jeff Cardy and Michael Hillier realized their comic moments as Agent Hanratty’s subordinates nicely. Shaun Hood and Henri Canino gave the production one of its most hilarious moments with their portrayal as the parents of the endearingly awkward ‘Brenda Strong’. Gabrielle Drapeau gave that character a beautifully clumsy innocence that made her as irresistible as Cian Poore’s ‘Frank. She also graced the piece with some wonderful singing. Her control of pitch, range and ability to act out the character of a song is exceptional.
Musically the production was exceptional. Jen Brown Nead showed again that she’s one of the amazing singers in the area. Henri Canino belted out a solo number with the flair that demonstrated why her presence is always welcome in musicals. Sara Joy, Brenda Ficht Holmes and Karen Davies had some wonderful moments singing as a trio. The twelve piece orchestra led by Music Director Dan Sonier played with brashness ideally suited to the flamboyant story of Frank Abagnale. The musicians included many of the usual culprits including guitarist Glenn Kennedy, drummer Tim Nicholls, violinist Caitlin Mason, trumpeter Tim Hummel and keyboard player Dave Williams. Others in the group were trumpeter Ken Robinson, trombonist Ken Van Ewyk, reed instrument players Frank Brennan, Ken Foster and Rick McGregor and bassist Andy Lloyd. Not enough can be said about the contributions of these people this time or on the countless occasions they offer their sevices. Their dynamic as a band insured the production jumped from start to finish. Dan Tidball had the sound from this huge ensemble balanced well and that’s hard to do.
Visually, the production was a treat. Josh Jacobson’s set put the band above the stage and gave the production its sense of being set in a bandshell. The wardrobe designed by Cat Cabajar and Nicole Brown had a lustrous look that shone throughout the performance enhancing the feel of Abagnale’s story being as much a show as a narrative. The makeup Cat created supported that and was capped beautifully by stunning lighting from Brian Austin Jr. The props and decor set in place by Drew Caldwell, Mary Jo Webber, Rachel Lacroix and Lynda McLeish served the design of the set beautifully. Complex dance sequences set up by Choreographer Tia Colborne had their intricacy belied by the ease with which she had the ensemble flowing. The cues set in place by Stage Manager Rhiannon Clift kept everything flowing smoothly.
Despite this being such an ensemble piece everything seemed to home in on the character of FBI agent ‘Karl Hanratty’. Adam Miller’s portrayal literally made this guy the perfect “flatfoot” whose heart of gold rises slowly to the surface. Miller’s comic delivery and mannerisms were flawless, always in character and delightfully over the top in a way that created anticipation for every moment he’d appear on stage. Saying that he had all the funny bits is wrong but suggesting that he had most of the key ones is accurate. The entire ensemble became his foil, literally serving as ‘Bud Abbott’ to his ‘Lou Costello’. It was great to watch.
Director Andrew Colborne deserves an enormous amount of credit. Terrence McNally’s book has precious little spoken dialogue to work from but he drew fully realized musical characterizations from all his performers. His staging was fully in line with Marc Shairman’s and Scott Wittman’s score and his pacing of the narrative moved things along at a brisk pace. The fact that the show ran for more than two and a half hours came as a shock because it felt like far less.
Theatre Sarnia’s season is off to a great start with this production. Get out and see it. It’s great live entertainment.
This performance took place at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia Ontario on Friday October 24, 2014. This article was written to convey impressions of what it was like to be there watching.=