Vol. 17, No. 05 – Nov 29 – Dec 12, 2023 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Fly the Friendly Skies at Conejo

The Conejo Players in Thousand Oaks winds up their season with a fun-filled, jazzy, sexy, high-stepping musical in Catch Me If You Can now running through December 3. Remember the popular and surprising memoir by the same name from the 1980’s? This is the mostly true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. who, before he was 21, successfully reinvented himself numerous times all to his own personal advantage. Assuming personas of a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and others gave him the opportunity to travel the world in style.

The story is as unbelievable as it is true. The musical version takes a few liberties that differ from the book.. When arrested at Miami airport, Frank Jr. (Ezra Ells) implores the FBI agent, Carl Hanratty (Mark Lopez) to allow him to tell his version of the story to the audience. Thus, the show begins.

Young Frank Jr. easily followed in his father’s footsteps. As Sr. states “people only know what you tell them”, a line Jr. builds his career on. We learn how it all started and some of where these impersonations took him. We learn of AFBI gent Hanratty’s dogged determination to find this brilliant young man with the ability to disappear easily. Ultimately though, Jr. tires of the high life, falls in love and decides to end his jet-setting ways.

Abagnale is at last captured and incarcerated for his admittedly brilliant crime spree. In a true twist of fate, upon his release he was then offered a job with the FBI. Due to his extensive knowledge of cheating, cons and banking, he became a special consultant and has since written several books on how to spot cheats.

Dizzyingly packed with production numbers featuring a bevy of beauties in revealing outfits, the first act pulsated with excitement. Choreographer/Director Miriam Durrie-Kirsch kept the action at a lively level, incorporating tap numbers with go-go, with waltzing. Fun to watch and well executed. Superb costuming by Beth Eslick made it easy to sit in a way-back machine and relive the 1960’s. A superbly appointed movable set allows for maximum use and flexibility.

The leading roles are all solid. Ells gives it his all as young Abagnale, singing, dancing and making eyes at all the ladies. Lopez shines in the second act with several of his songs. One duet with Frank Sr. is a standout. The second act delves into more story and character songs than chorus numbers, so I found the lyrics much easier to understand and appreciate.

Devery Holmes as mother Paula and Jim Holmes as Father Frank Sr., as well as Lauren Brown as Brenda, portray their roles with class and clarity, a welcome contrast to the action of the big production numbers.

Catch Me if You Can, the musical, is a nostalgic nod to musicals of earlier years – fun, upbeat, silly, full of characters and lots of dancing. Quite a spirited evening.

www.conejoplayers.org /805-495-3715. Closes December 3.

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