‘Catch’ Light Opera Guild’s latest musical

CHIP ELLIS | Gazette

Charleston Light Opera Guild director Nina Pasinetti sounded almost remorseful about doing the musical “Catch Me If You Can,” if only because Frank Abagnale Jr. makes crime look like a lot of fun.

Still, a show about someone making all the right decisions wouldn’t be as entertaining, and Pasinetti said there’s a lot to like about “Catch Me If You Can.”

“The music is so good,” she said. “It’s from the same team that did ‘Hairspray.’”

“Catch Me If You Can,” which opens Friday at the Civic Center Little Theater is based on the real-life con man’s exploits. Through his mid-teens until his early 20s, Abagnale impersonated an airline pilot, a teacher, a doctor and actually passed the bar exam in Louisiana. He defrauded banks, committed forgery and even escaped from prison.

Abagnale’s story was turned into a film in 2002, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks (with Jennifer Garner in a supporting role) and was directed by Steven Spielberg. It was nominated for two Oscars.

“Spielberg thought Abagnale was a genius,” Pasinetti said, though she didn’t want to go that far. 

“He was certainly bright as a tack to do this,” she said. “But he did pay for his crimes. ‘Catch Me If You Can’ is kind of a redemption story — maybe different than ‘Les Mis.’”

It’s certainly cheerier. But still, it’s a story about redemption and turning over a new leaf, which Abagnale eventually did. After spending almost five years in prison for his crimes, he became a security consultant and lecturer for the FBI.

Pasinetti saw the musical on Broadway a few years ago and was taken by both the music and the style of the show, which retells Abagnale’s story as a 1960s television special but with musical numbers and dancing.

“It’s a very high energy, glossy show,” she said. “It kind of looks like ‘Hullabaloo’ or one of those other shows you probably only remember if you’re of a certain age.”

Hullabalo was a variety show that ran on NBC in the mid-1960s.

“I remember,” she laughed.

The musical is a big spectacle, with a 17-piece orchestra on stage and lots of dance numbers.

“I think if you like the music of the Sinatra era, you’ll love the way the music in this show feels.”

This production is also something of a spectacle, with the Charleston Light Opera Guild using the costumes from the touring show.

“We have eight singing and dancing gals who appear throughout the show,” she said. “They appear as airline stewardesses, nurses, school chums. I think they appear as like 14 different things.”

It’s a dizzying number of costume changes.

“And they do a wonderful job,” she said.

Pasinetti has frequently praised her cast in interviews, but she thinks the cast assembled for “Catch Me If You Can” is especially noteworthy.

“We have a big cast and a lot of talent. We do the show as authentic as we can,” she said. “I feel good about our product.”

And while there’s a lot of song and dance to the show, it’s not just singing and dancing, particularly for the role of the charismatic con-man Frank Abagnale, Jr, played by Kentucky resident Evan Sullivan.

“You need some acting chops for that,” she said. “Frank has issues. He’s always trying to help his father get back on his feet so he can get back with his mom, but she’s moved on.”

Pasinetti said Sullivan has done a wonderful job with the role.

“But everybody has been so involved with this one,” she said. “At rehearsals, I’ve watched the members of the chorus mouthing along to the songs they’re not even singing. They know all the words.”

The show is just full of a lot of energy and excitement.

“It’s a fun story, and he was punished severely,” Pasinetti emphasized.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.

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