By the time you read this, there are likely only four or maybe just three chances left for you to see the Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre’s new production of “Catch Me If You Can,” a deliciously ambitious musical production based on the 2002 film (and true story) about a youthful con artist that starred Leonardo DiCaprio.
Now RFCT producers boast that their lead is just as handsome as Leo, and that their productions bring near-Broadway quality theater to the East End at a fraction of the cost, and this play delivers.
It’s got a great story to begin with — the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who forged millions of dollars of checks by posing as a Pan Am pilot, worked as an emergency room doctor and passed the bar exam without going to law school, all before his 18th birthday.
But even if you know this story, the music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman will knock your socks off — it’s a great score, filled with surprises, and a lot of meaty singing parts for this 30-member ensemble cast. This production also benefits from a kick-ass, 13-piece pit orchestra, led by Karen Hochstedler.
There are also plenty of sexy chorus lines and dancing nurses and stewardesses, a broad range of dance numbers choreographed by Nicole Bianco, and so many dizzying and colorful costume changes that I lost count after the first act.
Director Jessica Raven needs kudos for pulling this huge production together, but what’s more important is the cast seems to love every minute they’re on stage.
Now about the cast — I hesitate to single any one actor out for greatness, because I can’t think of one performance I didn’t enjoy, so here are some quick sketches of the roles I found most memorable:
Bobby Peterson is just as wonderful as Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnate, Jr. Maybe more so. His smile is just as sly. His con act is as polished. The complexity of emotions he brings to his character’s back story — his parents’ failures and how they shaped his world view, his wish to make up for their mistakes in his own hopeful romance — is a great thing to watch. It’s great to hear him sing, too.
James Stevens brings an equally deep complexity to his role as FBI agent Carl Hanratty, a character who’s drawn on the surface as a noir detective in a fedora, but his vocal chops, dancing, comedic timing and the look we get into the misery of his personal life bring this caricature into living color.
The trio of singing and dancing girls known as Mindy, Cindy and Lindy, played by Colleen Kelly, Brianna Kinnier and Ashleigh Rubino, just knocked my socks off as they lead the ensemble in one dance number after another. They seemed to be having an absolute blast on stage.
Kelsey Ehrensberger is a darling as nurse Brenda Strong, whose purity of heart breaks down Frank’s conning resolve. She’s a beacon of goodness in a stage universe filled with broken characters.
Peter Peterson runs away with his minor role as FBI Agent Dollar, delivering a slew of aw-shucks bumbling comic lines with gleeful abandon.
Rusty Kransky seems right in his element as Frank’s confidence man father, Frank Abagnale, Sr., whose life is a small time Ponzi scheme, of which only he is the victim. He’s a cranky guy who turns to the bottle after his wife leaves him, his voice faltering more and more with each number, until near the end the federal government catches up to him — but only because he’s stooped to take a job as a mail carrier to pay back his debts to the IRS. Added bonus, Mr. Kransky appears to be wearing his postal uniform from his real-life day job as a mail carrier.
Now, I saw this play opening night, and there were some minor imperfections in the levels with the wireless microphone system — wireless mics are notoriously difficult to work with, and the dynamic range of the score, coupled with 30 singers and 13 instruments with wide dynamic ranges of their own, make for quite a complicated job for any sound technician. I’m hoping that these opening night bugs get worked out in subsequent performances. This show deserves the very best.
It deserves the very best audience it can get, too. You won’t be disappointed. Catch this show at a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 6, on Nov. 11 or 12 at 7:30 p.m. or at the 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 13.
Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and $5 for students. All veterans are free on Veteran’s Day. Tickets are available online here or by calling 631.871.3908.