IF YOU GO
What: Musical version of the 2002 film about a teen con man
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers
Cost: $67, $52, $42, $32
Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com
Something Else: Parking is sometimes chaotic because of evening classes at Edison College. Park farther out and escape the after-show traffic jams.
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
FORT MYERS — Fact: If you put enough leggy chorines in barely there costumes on stage, anything looks good. "Catch Me If You Can" tosses stewardesses, oh-so-naughty nurses and girls in pinstripes. It doesn't need them. The show makes you want to race down the concourse to catch a Pan-Am flight to the front row.
Inspired by, like the 2002 film of the same name, the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., "Catch Me If You Can" paints a glorious picture of a teenage conman. Abagnale forged more than $2 million in fake checks, flew planes for Pan-Am, passed the bar in Louisiana and worked at a Georgia hospital - all before he was 21.
“People believe what you tell them,” Frank says - and the show practically screams "YOU'RE GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME!" at audiences.
"Catch Me" looks effortless in the way it kicks, spins and lies into a smooth night of dazzling entertainment. FSU grad Stephen Anthony (he's just 22!) brings a preternaturally youthful face and winning charm to his Frank. Anthony allows the audience to see the joy when he succeeds in a con - watch for the recurring ink, knife and glue bit - and to feel the thrill of victory.
The show knows it isn't exactly Shakespeare; "Catch Me" uses its young, slinky ensemble better than any I've seen in a good long while. Every scam, every con, every gimmick comes backed with clever costumes and a high-kicking routine - and Anthony beaming his thousand-watt lighthouse smile.
Don't dally in the loo at intermission. Saucy, sexy curtain-raiser "Doctor's Order's," with leggy nurses in just-long-enough, but wow-those-are-tight costumes spanking Anthony, gets Act Two started with a bang. Well, more of a ka-pow! "Jet Set" sees natty air bunnies in classic Pan-Am uniforms in a kick line, while "The Pinstripes are All They See" celebrates clothes - and the New York Yankees. "Pinstripes" sees the chorus in sparkling pinstripe shirts, leggings - and little more as they swing, kick and dazzle.
In a clever move, the show brings the orchestra on stage, siting the musicians on a sloped "hill" at the rear of the stage. A floor-to-ceiling video screen lies behind them. The video opens up an entire world of evocative scenic projections. Some (sunsets, plane takeoffs) might be a bit trite, but the pulsing star field and majestic chandeliers seen through a gauzy curtain add delightful beauty.
National tour veteran Merritt David Janes, on his fifth trip to Fort Myers, gives the show its depth and heart as FBI agent Carl Hanratty. Janes, with his wonderfully expressive face and crotchety demeanor, provides much of the show's heart. For all that "Catch Me" relies on glitz, the last scene, with Janes and Anthony alone at an airport, talking, with a resigned Frank deciding that he's tired of running, offers the night's biggest emotions. Anthony might be the glam star, but Janes offers a subtle, under-played support that deepens both performances.
Look for standouts among the ensemble. Caitlin Moloney brings an elegant charm to Frank's mother, Paula. Watch for the elegant, graceful, smartly choreographed second act number "Don't Be A Stranger" that matches Moloney with three different dancers while Hanratty interviews her. Dominic Fortuna offers a tough but vulnerable portrait as Frank Abagnale, Sr.
Like any show, "Catch Me" stumbles in places. The high-flying first half soars - only to sputter a bit in act two when the show starts to explore why Frank does what he does - and his efforts to marry and settle down. Just two big dance numbers pop out in this half - although the curvy nurses do make up for a lot!
A New Orleans scene where Frank meets his bride-to-be's family will either amuse or distress, depending on your taste for loud, obnoxious and over-the-top comedy. The number includes the baffling phrase "Well god**** and gumbo," throwaway song "Family Tree," but makes up for it with a dance sequence in stylish plantation wear. Cliched, but cute.
While Anthony's acting talent propels the show forward, his falsetto sometimes falters under the demands of the role. Likewise, Aubrey Mae Davis brings a low-key appeal to her Brenda, but her big "Fly, Fly Away" solo seems under-powered.
What do stewardesses want? A nice, long layover. Email me, email@example.com. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.