'Catch' a smashing opener at RCT

Act fast: The musical "Catch Me If You Can" continues through Sunday at Rochester Civic Theatre. Pictured are: stewardesses (From bottom left, clockwise) Katrina Carrow, Anna Gwaltney, Julie Galaty, Audrey Rinkoski, Maggie Hendrickson and Laura Fierro. Dylon Starr plays Frank Abagnale Jr., middle left, and Kayley Dahle plays Brenda Strong.

If you need good music to have a good musical, what do you get with great music?

Fill in your own answer after watching the musical "Catch Me if You Can,"which opened last weekend at Rochester Civic Theatre.

Lovers of Frankie, Dean and Sammy, the early seasons of "Mad Men," and that lost art form known as the television variety show, will find much to enjoy with this production. The crackerjack orchestra, directed by Brian Koser, really cooks, whether tackling jazz, bossa nova or pre-Beatles pop. It's like a soundtrack for the New Frontier.

Oh, and there's an entertaining (and generally true) story that goes along with that music. Frank Abagnale Jr.left his broken home as a teen, and started forging checks and documents, then passed himself off as an airline pilot, doctor and attorney, ran circles around the FBI, and finally ended the game and the chase when he fell in love.

Greg Millerdirects this show, which is full of verve and energy, and is stocked with a cast of talented singers and dancers. We'll start with Dylon Starr, who makes Frank one of the most sympathetic and likable crooks you'll ever come across. His foil is Sean Harrington, always one of the most versatile RCT actors, as a dogged FBI man. Kayley Dahlereturns to the RCT stage with a bright performance as Frank's girlfriend, Brenda.


Doug Pettyand Melissa Adams-Goihlare Frank's parents, while Michele Nymanlights up the stage as Brenda's hilariously uncouth mother.

Back to the music: Only near the end does it slip into Broadway-ese. "Seven Wonders" is a cliche and the penultimate song, "Goodbye" is overwrought. Before that, though, we're treated to tunes you'll swear you've heard before — and don't mind hearing again. Highlights include, but are not limited to: a jazzy "Don't Break the Rules" by Harrington and the ensemble, a nice duet by Starr and Petty on "Butter Outta Cream" and Petty and Harrington taking turns on "Little Boy Be a Man." And don't overlook the fun Phil Spector Christmas tribute.

Choreographer Bryan Gerbermakes sure many of the songs are complemented by dancing that is at turns exotic, stylish and and expressive.

In this case, a good story plus great music plus shining performances equals, to borrow a term from the era, a smashing start to the RCT season. Catch it if you can.

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