Spreckel’s Theatre Company Produces Another Success!

“Catch Me If You Can”, another success at Spreckel’s Theatre Company

by Richard Riccardi

“Catch Me If You Can” is the latest production in a current series of high-energy, large scale musicals presented by Spreckels Theatre Company in Rohnert Park. Overall I found it to be a very entertaining and expertly done evening of musical theatre. Zack Howard, as the young Frank Abagnale, delivered a tour de force portrayal of the young swindler and con artist, with timing and delivery far exceeding his young years and experience. David Yen, as the FBI agent Carl Hanratty, reminded me of Barry Morse’s portrayal of Lieutenant Philip Gerard in the old television series “The Fugitive,” ever-chasing, stubborn, and palpably frustrated. Garet Waterhouse and Betsy Glincher, as Frank Abagnale, Sr and Paula Abagnale, delivered memorable and poignant scenes depicting the portrait of the true unhappiness they experienced in their relationship. Kelly Brandeburg, known for her “why-the-heck-aren’t-you-in-New-York?” voice, plays Brenda Strong, the nurse who emerges as Frank Jr’s love interest, and possibly his downfall. Her performance was a lovely rendering of Brenda’s earnestness, naïvete, and sweetness. Brenda’s parents, Carol and Roger Strong played by Pam Koppel and Tim Setzer, hilariously completed the picture of the family duped by Frank Abagnale Jr. Supporting actors, singers and dancers completed the picture to make this show a very congealed and successful ensemble.

Choreography should be at the top of the list of credits for “Catch Me If You Can”. Michella Snider has consistently shown that she is clearly at the top of her game in musical theatre, and this production didn’t disappoint. Dance highlights by the ensemble were clearly the nurses and the PanAm stewardesses! Raucous, uplifting, and lots of gorgeous gams.

Aligning with many of the past productions of the Spreckels Theater Company, “Catch Me If You Can” utilizes a series of projections supporting the set design. These projections in a way reminded me of the early days of Cinerama, a brainchild of Fred Waller and originally produced by Mike Todd, using wide angles and three projectors. Although these are ‘still’ projections, not often moving, they do lend support to stage shows which can financially benefit from minimal scenery. It certainly is fair to say that the overall effect of the projections not only enhanced the show, but combined with it very satisfactorily. I did however find myself occasionally distracted by the projection as a show unto itself (was that a picture of the historic Penn Station in New York City?) and caused a bit of wandering in my concentration. The use of projections certainly isn’t new, and there have been some spectacular ones, to wit, the large projection of Air Force 1 in San Francisco Opera’s production of “Nixon in China” which seemed to envelop the entire stage. Spreckels is a large theater on a City of Rohnert Park budget, so Gene Abravaya has found a brilliant solution to filling the stage without astronomical set-costs.

The musical score for this production, adapted from the non-musical movie of the same name, was light, fun, at times sixties-groovy and supportive of the story line, but I frequently wished for more sound. I heartily applaud Janis Wilson and her band of five, who did an incredibly precise job of supporting the stage, but clearly the score is written for a big band of many more instruments, and certainly would have benefited, not only from the number of instruments it was written for, but for a placement in the pit, where orchestras are designed to play from, for many musical and acoustic reasons. From experience, I know that it takes at least four dozen extra, unpaid hours on the part of the musical director (and the band itself) to reduce a score for 14 instruments down to a group of 6. Janis Wilson deserves a medal!

Kudos to set designers Eddy Hansen and Elizabeth Bazzano for creating clever stage pieces which were artfully integrated with the projections. Pamela Enz’s costume design was period accurate, and at times extremely sexy (my favorites were the nurses outfits, my wife’s favorites were the bright-blue Pan Am stewardesses). The production was directed seamlessly by Gene Abravaya.

“Catch Me If You Can” plays until May 25, 2014. For show schedules and ticket information, please contact the Spreckels box office at (707) 588-3400 or online at www.spreckelsonline.com