BY DAN ARMONAITIS
A 16-year-old runs away from home and becomes a successful con artist who somehow manages to impersonate a pilot, a doctor and a lawyer while still only in his teens.
As much as that might sound like the plot for a work of fiction, amazingly it’s not. Those things really did happen in the life of Frank Abagnale, Jr., during the 1960s.
The story is perhaps best known through Steven Spielberg’s 2002 motion picture, “Catch Me If You Can,” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale and Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent who pursued him.
The film was a box office smash and inspired a stage musical adaptation that ran on Broadway in 2011, earning four Tony Award nominations.
As the finale to its 2018-19 season, Greenville Theatre is presenting its production of “Catch Me If You Can: The Musical” through June 23.
The show’s opening weekend concluded with a Sunday matinee in which the cast gave an outstanding performance in front of an audience that included the real life Frank Abagnale, Jr. and his wife Kelly, who now live in Charleston.
In an article posted on BroadwayWorld.com, Abagnale, who served some time in prison before becoming an FBI security consultant, was quoted as saying he and his wife were “astounded by the talent on stage and quality of production we just enjoyed.” That comment pretty much sums up what was on display throughout the Greenville Theatre show.
Andrew Anderson was fantastic in the role of the teenage Abagnale, whose unique story was also the basis for the television series, “White Collar,” which ran for six seasons on the USA Network from 2009-2014. Anderson brought to the role a mix of witty charm and streetwise shrewdness, which made it understandable how the real life Abagnale was able to dupe so many people in his younger days.
Evan Harris was equally effective as Agent Hanratty, whose character in the musical is much more multi-dimensional than what one might expect from someone whose primary role is as a foil to the protagonist, who, in this case, happens to be a criminal. In many ways, the cat-and-mouse game featured in “Catch Me If You Can: The Musical” is told as much from the perspective of Hanratty as it is from Abagnale’s point of view.
Greenville Theatre’s production of “Catch Me If You Can: The Musical” is lively, fast-paced and filled with comedic moments, particularly in the first act, which is more upbeat compared to the more introspective elements of the second act.
Especially enjoyable was Kimberlee Ferreira’s choreography for the opening number, “Live in Living Color,” which, combined with a gloriously colorful stage set, immediately put the audience in a playful mood. The song — like many others in the show — had an ultra-catchy early ’60s pop vibe, and the dance routines looked like lost footage from a classic TV show such as “Hullabaloo” or “Shindig.” There are also some really cool jazz-oriented tunes included in the show.
Along with a solid ensemble cast that shined throughout, other notable performances were delivered by Rick Connor as Frank Abagnale, Sr. and Claire Clauson as Brenda Strong, a nurse the younger Frank falls in love with while he’s impersonating a doctor.
Husband-and-wife team Allen McCalla and Suzanne McCalla, who serve as Greenville Theatre executive artistic director and producing director, respectively, should be commended for bringing such a fun show to the Upstate, and the couple should take particular pride in the fact that it was so warmly received by an audience member who was seeing a significant part of his own life being portrayed on stage.
As the real life Abagnale also said in the aforementioned BroadwayWorld.com article, “I have been a huge fan of this musical since it premiered on Broadway in 2011. This was a real treat to see it at the Greenville Theatre.”
“Catch Me If You Can: The Musical” continues with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 22 and 3 p.m. Sundays through June 23 at the Greenville Theatre, 440 College St., Greenville. Call 864-233-6238 or visit www.greenvilletheatre.org.