Frank Abagnale Jr. (Jeremy Seiner, R) realizes he wants to stop running when he meets nurse Brenda Strong (Carolyn Ann Miller) in Wagon Wheel Theatre’s production of the musical ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Frank Abagnale Jr. (Jeremy Seiner, R) realizes he wants to stop running when he meets nurse Brenda Strong (Carolyn Ann Miller) in Wagon Wheel Theatre’s production of the musical ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
On one of the lobby walls of the Wagon Wheel Theatre is a “Where Are They Now?” bulletin board of past actors who are performing on Broadway or in Broadway touring shows.
Jeremy Seiner, who plays the lead role of Frank Abagnale Jr. in Wagon Wheel’s current production of the musical “Catch Me If You Can,” will be on that wall in a few years.
His performance opening night Wednesday showcased his wide arrays of strengths – acting and singing especially. His unapologetic confidence intensified his performance, making him the focal point on the stage.
This summer is Seiner’s first experience with Wagon Wheel, but hopefully not his last before he makes his way to the New York stage.
“Catch Me” is a musical based on the Steven Spielberg movie of the same name, which was based on the memoir of Abagnale Jr. There are many lines from the movie in the musical, with some obvious differences.
Before he was 20, the real Abagnale Jr. forged nearly $2 million in checks, was an airline pilot, doctor and lawyer. He traveled all over the world and even met a famous model. His forgery and fraud crimes took place in the 1960s after his parents divorced, but instead of choosing one parent to live with, he ran away and created his own life.
It took FBI special agent Carl Hanratty several years to capture Abagnale Jr., but not only did the two men become friends, they also ended up working together after Abagnale Jr. got out of prison.
For Wagon Wheel’s production, Hanratty is played by the chameleon Javier Ferreira. Audiences may remember him as the slightly absent-minded Robertson Ay in “Mary Poppins.”
Ferreira’s performance as the by-the-books agent is an 180-degree turn from Ay. He’s more straightforward and serious with a get-it-done attitude. Even when he delivers some of the more funny lines of the musical, part of what makes the lines amusing is how well Ferreira plays it as the straightman.
You couldn’t ask for two better actors in the lead roles, so kudos to Artistic Director Scott Michaels on his casting. Michaels obviously had say in how Ferreira and Seiner played their parts so he deserves some of the standing ovation the crowd gave the show last night.
Throughout the show, Hanratty keeps repeating that criminals eventually slip up. Abagnale Jr. finally gets caught after meeting and falling in love with nurse Brenda Strong (Carolyn Ann Miller).
For me, Miller’s performance really gives heart to the musical. Brenda makes Abagnale Jr. want to stop running and settle down, and Miller makes that all seem possible. Audiences will want Abagnale Jr. to be with Brenda because of how well Miller plays her.
There are a lot of fun musical numbers in “Catch Me,” but not until when Miller sings “Fly, Fly Away” near the end of Act II, did I feel any real warmth in the musical. Miller’s performance and that song make you hope that Brenda and Abagnale Jr. will end up together.
Playing Jr.’s parents are Scott Fuss as Frank Abagnale Sr. and Kira Lace Hawkins as Paula Abagnale. Paula isn’t one of Hawkins’ biggest roles, but she plays her just as well as she did Mary Poppins. Fuss plays Abagnale Sr. best when he’s playing him broken, with his scenes in Act II standing out the most.
Besides the energetic performances from the cast, what really helps to bring “Catch Me If You Can” to life are the costumes. One thing that never disappoints in a Wagon Wheel show are the costumes by Stephen R. Hollenbeck, and he delivers again for this show.
Even the ensemble members have more than a handful of costume changes for this musical. There’s the baseball uniforms, the stewardess and pilot wardrobes, the FBI agent suits and so much more. Hollenbeck and his team did an outstanding job for this show.
Along with the many costume changes, there’s a lot of group dance numbers. Last night the crowd seemed to most enthusiastically respond to “Don’t Break the Rules” in Act I by Hanratty with the ensemble. Me personally, I favored “Live in Living Color.” It started the musical off with full-blown energy that set the mood of the show – and Seiner delivered it accordingly.
Overall, the similarities and differences between “Catch Me If You Can” the musical and the movie are noticeable, but either one is just as good. Both tell an interesting story of one young man’s search to find himself in an imperfect world, and both are worth watching at least once.
My rating of the musical (out of four): 3.5
“Catch Me” is scheduled to be in Warsaw through June 28 at the Wagon Wheel Theatre.
Tickets range from $15 to $34. Discounts are available for college students and on designated performances for seniors. For more information, visit wagonwheeltheatre.org or call 574-267-8041.