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Catchy ‘Catch’

Imposter thriller makes for murky musical at CNY Playhouse

Steve Gamba portrays FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, here singing “Don’t Break the Rules” with the ensemble, in “Catch Me If You Can” running through Aug. 2, at CNY Playhouse, in DeWitt’s ShoppingTown Mall.

Steve Gamba portrays FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, here singing “Don’t Break the Rules” with the ensemble, in “Catch Me If You Can” running through Aug. 2, at CNY Playhouse, in DeWitt’s ShoppingTown Mall. Amelia Beamish

— Based on a film which was based on a ghost-written autobiography by an admitted scam artist, “Catch Me If You Can” is a far cry from your usual feel-good musical. But the venturesome CNY Playhouse dives right in, doing its level best to wring some sense of the offbeat blend of tunes and trickery.

The show – by Terrence McNally with music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman – tells the story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a teenage grifter from downstate New York who successfully impersonated a teacher, a pilot, a doctor and a lawyer while living a life funded by check forgery in the 1960s.

“Only I know how I did it,” Frank declares as the show opens. “And I did it in style!”

Audience members unfamiliar with Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie will find themselves a little lost as this musical – fearlessly directed by Greg Hipius – rapidly encapsulates its unlikely story. Those who know Abagnale’s tale, however, will follow along fairly well as actor Liam Fitzpatrick ably embodies the charismatic con man.

The robust Steve Gamba portrays Abnagale’s nemesis, FBI agent Carl Hanratty, and the zaftig Kasey McHale plays Frank’s primary love interest, a naive nurse named Brenda Strong. As the show nears its inevitable end, McHale sings a maudlin “Fly, Fly Away.”

Jay Burris turns in a riveting performance as Frank’s charming but failing father, a characterization completed by an incredibly realistic drunk scene. As father-and-son, Burris and Fitzpatrick nearly stop the show with two Act 1 numbers – a rousing “The Pinstripes Are All They See” and a soft-shoe shuffle, “Butter Outta Cream.”

Then, in Act 2, Burris and Gamba deliver a dynamic duet on the melancholy melody “Little Boy Be a Man.”

As a little boy, Frank witnesses his mother’s infidelity, a circumstance which eventually turned his life inside-out. Kathy Egloff plays the philandering mom, and she sings like an archangel although she looks more matronly than mesmerizing. The same could be said of the female ensemble which seemed out of place as sexy airline stewardesses and hospital nurses.

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