Catch This Play

Gene Abravaya's adaptation of 'Catch Me' sings

In Catch Me if You Can: The Musical, a teenager takes (too literally) the advice that you can be anything you want to be if you only try—and he ends up serving five-to-10 in prison.

But first he sings and dances.

In this surprisingly serviceable adaptation of the popular Steven Spielberg film of the same name, Catch Me if You Can, based on a true story, is both lighthearted and deadly serious. Now playing at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park and directed by Gene Abravaya, the snappy production features a trio of notable lead performances, and a supporting ensemble of singers and dancers—including a semi-bumbling trio of FBI agents—who nicely capture the spirit and tone of this’60s-era cat-and-mouse game.

Frank Abagnale Jr. was a clever kid who soaked up the questionalbe life lessons of his yarn-spinning dad, all while watching television shows about successful pilots, doctors and lawyers. From such sources, Frank learned how to walk and talk like a confident, experienced professional, and before he was old enough to drink, he’d successfully passed himself off as an airline pilot, an emergency room doctor and a prosecuting attorney—passing a lot of fake and forged checks along the way and stealing over $2 million before he was finally caught by the FBI.

Played by Zach Howard, whose excellent voice and flirty stage presence is perfect for the role, Frank isn’t exactly the most sympathetic of characters. After all, he lies compulsively and steals without remorse. But there’s a likable element to his brash and fearless creativity, and Howard’s appealing manner helps sell that. As the overworked FBI fraud investigator Carl Hanratty, David Yen brings a hard-boiled world-weariness to the difficult role of the guy who will catch our “hero” in the end. As good as he is in the straight-laced scenes, those moments where Yen gets to let loose, to sing and dance, are sheer delights.

But it’s Kelly Brandeburg, as the sweet-natured nurse who wins Frank’s larcenous heart, who steals the show with the love song “Fly, Fly Away,” performed with such sincerity and skill you have to believe that Frank might actually be worth loving that much.

With leads that are perfectly cast, a visually clever set design and a story that maintains a sense of humor and heart amid all the twists and turns, Spreckels’ Catch Me If You Can is worth catching—while you can.

Rating (out of 5): ★★★★