Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Catch Me If You Can

Posted on March 23, 2015 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Sam Hill | The Free Press
The cast of Catch Me If You Can perform choreographed music numbers in Russell Hall on Gorham Campus.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
The cast of Catch Me If You Can perform choreographed music numbers in Russell Hall on Gorham Campus.

Stealing the USM main stage this month was the ridiculously catchy, deliciously sixties con artistry set to music: Catch Me If You Can. Premiering in Maine for the first time, this euphoric bang of a show features a wide range of student talent.

“It’s a great showcase of the talent here at USM,” said musical director Ed Reichert, USM lecturer in musical theatre.

Nominated for four Tony Awards, with music and lyrics written by Hairspray’s creators Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Catch Me If You Can is a hit. It is based on the similarly titled autobiography by Frank Abagnale Jr. that tells the tale of a charming con artist who loves women. There is also a movie adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.

The musical follows the misadventures of Abagnale has he drops out of high school at 16 after his parents divorce. He then runs away from home to become one of world’s most famous con artists, cashing millions of dollars worth of bad checks and successfully impersonating an airplane pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer.

“It’s told with a lot of dance, song, humor and some drama,” said Wil Kilroy, USM professor of Theatre and director of the musical. “You see what led Abagnale to become the person that he became.”

Charismatic and young, Abagnale takes the audience on a whirlwind journey of multiple uniforms, all the while being hotly pursued by law-loving FBI agent Carl Hanratty. Beautiful dancing women flank Abagnale’s way as he tells his tale in this self-acknowledging play.

“It’s a show within a show. It’s kind of tongue and cheek that way. We are making a nod to the fact that this is musical theatre and they are performing,” said Kilroy.

Putting on a musical this size was quite a production.  Kilroy says his favorite part about directing this musical is that he could get so many students involved. Since there are so many roles, theatre majors as well as musical theatre majors try their hand at song and dance.

There was also a live eleven piece orchestra providing music for the show, with nine student musicians and two alumni under the command of Reichert, with assistant music director Kelly Moody.

“It’s a challenge to take a show this big and produce it on a smaller scale. No mics are being used for the actors, it will be more intimate.” said Reichert. He said his favorite part is making the score come alive, through the actors, singers and musicians.

Songs like “Doctors Orders” and “Don’t Break the Rules” got stuck in audience members heads for days. Vanessa Beyland’s choreography was captivating, quick,  and true to the time frame the show took place in.

“As an actor who is not a dancer first, its really nice to be eased into some of the more challenging choreography,” confesses Matt West, who plays Frank Abagnale Jr and is junior musical theatre major.

For a show of this size and this pace, it was difficult to condense everything onto the small stage. Director Wil Kilroy has to deal with this.

“It’s very quick, so there’s not a lot of time to change scenery because we want the whole show to flow. It’s challenging to know how to get scenery off really fast, and to make sure we have enough room to dance,” explains Kilroy.

The crew did a great job designing the set as well, a simple stairway set with large panels on either side of the stage with electronic bars resembling airport announcement boards, informing the audience where the scene was taking place. The giant blue tinsel background for the play was turned from a darkened pub into a crisp doctor’s office.

“I love the chase of the show. You never really know who to root for,” said West. “Abagnale is on stage a lot, so as an actor I get to show off my chops, and that’s a lot of fun.”

West has been working with some members of this cast for a long time, and it was evident  in the way he and Cameron Wright, junior musical theatre who plays the FBI agent Hanratty, play off each other on stage.

Rachel Grindle, a sophomore musical theatre major played the part of Brenda, Abagnale’s sweet young Lutheran love interest, who belts out one of the show’s famous power ballads, “Fly, Fly Away.”

“It’s a fun, jazzy musical that brings together the showiness of musical theatre. It’s hard to blend the showiness of this production while trying to keep true to the real characters,” Grindle observes.

USM will forever get to claim to be the Maine premier of this high-kicking and morally compromising show.

West said, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll feel all these fantastic things, but in the end, you won’t be disappointed because it ends on a high note.”

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