What has 54 legs and flies? Catch Me if You Can, the 27-person musical now cruising along at high altitude at Uptown Players at Kalita Humphreys Theater. What a show! What a cast! What a way to close out the strongest season yet for the little company out-producing the Dallas Theater Center in what they put on the stage they share at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed playhouse on Turtle Creek.
Director Cheryl Denson, the darling doyenne of Dallas musical comedies, picked an all-local ensemble for Catch, many of them recent TCU grads, including the cute blue-eyed bundle of talent in the starring role, Anthony Fortino, who graduated in May. He’s as solid as a Broadway veteran, a real triple threat, as they say in the biz. The leggy lovelies around him burst with high kicks and giggles, which suits the flirty tone of Catch perfectly.
Fortino plays Frank Abagnale Jr., a smart young conman, expert forger and impostor who smooth-talks his way into jobs he has no credentials for: Pan-Am co-pilot, emergency room doctor, lawyer. He’s a charming scoundrel, running from feuding parents (David Lugo, Sarah Powell) as he tries to figure out what he really wants to be.
As Frank performs his human chameleon act, singing “Live in Living Color” and “Someone Else’s Skin,” a parallel storyline follows FBI agent Carl Hanratty’s pursuit of the handsome felon. Eventually, Carl, played at Uptown with mega-mugging and tons of heart by Christopher Curtis, catches up with Frank. The happy twist is that they become friends. Carl takes a fatherly interest and helps turn Frank’s life around. After ’fessing up, Frank also finds love with a sweet nurse (Maranda Harrison) and makes amends with his real dad (Lugo’s deep vocals blending like butter with Fortino’s on their farewell song together).
Based on the 2002 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, which was inspired by Abagnale’s autobiography, Catch Me if You Can landed on Broadway in 2011 with an impressive creative team. Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman wrote the swingin’ 1960s-style tunes (lots of bossa nova beats), Scott Wittman wrote lyrics (with Shaiman) and multi-Tony winner Terrence McNally provided the book. Reviews were so-so but Norbert Leo Butz earned a Tony for his turn as Carl.
As short-lived Broadway musicals go (it lasted 200 performances), this one delivers graded-on-a-curve B-plus entertainment, just right for regional theater. Uptown Players has done it big, with a multilevel, double-staircase set with sharp video inserts, all by Rodney Dobbs and Michael Albee; sexy go-go-era costumes by Suzi Cranford; and impeccable wigs and makeup by Coy Covington. Everything glows under glamorous lighting by Dan Schoedel. Musical director Kevin Gunter’s nine-piece band bangs along nicely behind all the big voices. If choreographer Ann Nieman’s everyone-kick-in-unison steps get a little drill team-y, at least the dreamy-looking dancers appear to be having a ball.
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It’s two and a half hours of shiny, happy people, singing and dancing their way to a joyous finale. Catch it if you can.