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'Catch Me if You Can' is filled with exciting talent

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

Grab a First-Class ticket aboard San Diego Musical Theatre's new show, "Catch Me If You Can." You'll need to strap on your seat belts and prepare for takeoff because SDMT has a sky-high hit on their hands!

The play follows Steven Spielberg's movie which kind of followed the real-life tale as written in Frank W. Abagnale, Jr's captivating biography. Now 73, and a fraud specialist working with the FBI, it is his younger daring days that are put to song by lyricist Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman who also added the music from the captivating book by librettist Terrence McNally.

Congratulations go to director Allison Spratt Pearce for soaring with this first-class-dancing-singing crew to retell the story about one young man who followed his father's advice, "people only know what you tell them."

Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Beau Brians) made these words his mantra and went around the world proving his dad was right. Brians' performance is electric, enhanced by his natural boyish charm and a bright clear singing voice. Brians is the real deal.

One of Frank's adventures takes him across the continent as a dead-heading-co-pilot for Pan American Airlines. It seems he not only liked the uniform, he endeared himself to the stewardesses. At least, that is what they were called in 1964.

It was Frank's penchant for writing under-funded checks that finally brought FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Berto Fernandez) into the chase. Even so, it still took months to track him down for his arrest. Co-star Fernandez is the polar opposite of Brians. Sometimes his character seems too big for the space. He is loud and boisterous which may or may not be the character. While he is the 'good guy,' he's not always likable.

Hanratty's team of investigators include Agent Branton (Joey Guerra), Agent Cod, (Sutheshna Mani), and Agent Dollar (Dennis Peters). A trio of newcomers to SDMT, they all show great promise.

Captivating performances include Jr.'s parents Frank Sr. (Paul Morgavo) and Paula (Andrea Petsinger) Abagnale. Morgavo's polished performance is a standout with Petsinger, from across the pond, bringing a dash of style with her.

Brenda Strong (Adelaida Martinez) plays Frank Jr's love interest and veteran actors Ted Leib and Debra Wanger play her parents, Roger and Carol Strong. Watching these two is an on-stage-acting class. While Martinez is still a theatre student at Grossmont College, she shows great promise.

The large ensemble cast is filled with exciting talent: alphabetically, Danielle Airey, Van Angelo, Allyssa Anne Austin, Johnisa Breault, dance captain, Donny Gersonde, Colby Hamann, Isaac Jackson (the singing District Attorney), Karina Johnson, Annika Knapp, Olivia Lucci, Marlon James Magitbay, Trevor Rex, Liliana Rodriguez, and Jupityr Shaw.

Shout outs to choreographer Xavier J. Bush. He added lots of dazzling-high-kick arrangements in the many elaborate dance sequences.

Kudos to set designer Mathys Herbert. His vivid imagination provided enough visuals to tell the story without cluttering the stage. Michelle Miles (lighting) and Paul Durso (sound) filled the space perfectly, enhancing the performers and the set design.

Janet Pitcher hits her stride on this show as costume designer. Each costume choice is brilliant and fits perfectly. Way to go!

The much-in-demand-musical director, Richard Duenez Morrison, is no stranger to San Diego and points east. His musical-theatre pedigree is too long to list and he is a welcome contributor to this production.

Lest we forget the minions behind the curtain, start with the artistic director in charge of casting. Hello, that would be Jill Townsend who has been doing this from the get-go. Once again, she did her job. Stephen Longfellow is the technical director, Shayne Mimms the stage manager, Michael Thomas-Visgar is the production manager, Heather Longfellow the prop master, and Peter Herman is the wig and hair designer.

I think I got everyone but the ushers. Sorry 'bout that.

This show runs until March 13. Playing in the new theater at 4650 Mercury Street in San Diego, there is free parking. The chairs aren't as comfortable as the seats at the old Horton Plaza, but otherwise the intimate setting scores high with cleanliness, ease of access, and parking. Next up is "In the Heights" opening May 6 and running through June 5.

For tickets, call 858-560-5740 or visit http://www.sdmt.org. This show started 10 minutes late, so it gets a 9.5 rating instead of 10.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].

 

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