These are heady times for Toby Orenstein. This weekend she commemorates 47 years as founding artistic director of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA) and four decades at the helm of her Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Yet she somehow manages to juggle time to attend her Junior Professional Theater’s annual summer productions, last evening the local debut of “Catch Me If You Can, The Musical” at Howard Community College. Also close to her heart is the dream of a permanent home for her CCTA students, one that may finally come true with pending downtown Columbia plans to include her vision.
Toby’s Kids fly high in camp musical
When Toby has her name attached to a show’s credits – she is listed as CCTA Artistic Director in the program – you can count on at least three things: a terrific live band to play for the teenager performers; lots of hugs after the curtain closes, last night from her protégés, “Catch Me” director Kassidy Sharp and choreographer Allie Rocco; and an off-beat musical that carries a message.
Based on the 2002 hit film that is based on a 1980 autobiography, “Catch Me If You Can, The Musical” follows the high-flying life of a young con artist who tells his story through catchy tunes and some fine dancing. CCTA veteran performer, Andrew Fleming, plays the role of Frank Abagnale, Jr., the youthful master forger who may have fooled banks and airlines but couldn’t fool himself when it came to love. From the curtain opener (where Frank is captured but needs to tell his story starting with a terrific “Live in Living Color” routine) to the rousing finale (where he turns himself in), Fleming’s Frank, Jr. never fails to entertain.
Of course Fleming/Frank has his foil, FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, chasing the teen throughout the show. Norbert Leo Butz won the Tony Award for Lead in a Broadway Musical in 2011 for his portrayal of the bumbling but brilliant detective. CCTA’s talented Jace Franco pulls off a couple of “scene stealers” with his take on Hanratty – think TV’s Columbo combined with Monk – and brought last night’s audience to its feet in “Don’t Break The Rules” and “Hanratty’s Reprise,” both super-charged numbers that keep the 40 plus performers on their toes.
Other standouts include Caroline Otchet as Brenda Strong, who sings a passionate “Fly, Fly Away” after falling for our Frank when he pretends he is a doctor; her parents Peyton Kern and Cade Macfee who add comic touches on cue; Frank’s parents Joey Heitzmann and Leah Reineck, whose lovely voice (and nice dancing) adds some sophistication to the show.
Kudos, especially, to the Pit Musicians, especially Rachel Sandler (Piano/Conductor) and Justin Kaley on Reeds – loved the sax and flute accompaniment in the quieter moments. Costumes by Carrie Seidman were authentic 1960s funky and fabulous. Also of note I the Set Construction by Mike Sharp and KNJ Construction. It rivaled the Broadway production without the Pan Am plane takeoff
For nearly five decades, CCTA has been a Mecca for talented teens and home to The Young Columbians, the Labels Project and Theatrical Arts Productions. The recent addition of the Starfish Sponsor Program rewards children with scholarships to all of the programs at needed basis.
Toby Orenstein’s face lights up as she talks about her involvement with teaching drama here in Howard County. “I don’t think people realize the importance of the arts, especially for the health and well being of young people,” she insists. “Students are able to communicate much better with their peers and their self-esteem is boosted.”
Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission.
“Catch Me If You Can, The Musical” plays on the Smith Theatre stage at Howard Community College Horowitz Visual Performing Arts Center, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044 Friday and Saturday evenings, Aug. 9-10 at 7 p.m. with an additional Saturday matinee at 2 pm. Auditions for The Young Columbians will be held Wednesday Aug. 21. To sign up or for ticket information, call 410-381-0700 or visit www.CCTArts.org.