By Sheila Wickouski
With a new production of Catch Me If You Can, Arena Stage adds to the list of acclaimed Broadway productions, Oklahoma!, The Pajama Game, Anything Goes and Disney’s Newsies, that have been brought to its iconic in-the-round Fichandler Stage.
The story of a charming con man, Frank Abagnale Jr, was a Tony-nominated musical and a critically acclaimed film. The Arena Stage production of the musical comedy is a never-before performed version of the book by Terrence McNally, which includes two new songs not in the original Broadway musical: “50 Checks” and “Here I Am to Save the Day.”
“Con men are rampant and the 60’s are roaring,” said Arena Artistic Director Molly Smith of the show. “In this moment of con men and con women, this is a perfect time to dive into a musical about a young con man who gets caught.”
Christian Thompson takes on the multiple roles as Abagnale Jr., posing as an airline pilot, a lawyer and a doctor. A veteran of Broadway, where he originated the role of Smokey Robinson in Ain’t Too Proud, Thompson answered questions for The Southwester ahead of his Arena Stage debut.
The Southwester: As many people who come to this show will have a story to tell about a scam, what can you share about con artists from playing this role? What does it feel like to play a con man on stage?
Christian Thompson: It is a rush getting to play a con man in Catch Me If You Can. I often imagine what my life would look like if I hadn’t fallen in love with theater, and this role gives me the chance to be a plethora of people. Who hasn’t dreamed of being a doctor, lawyer, or pilot? Now I get to be all three!
SW: What has it been like to work on Catch Me If You Can with Parker Esse, the choreographer behind some of the most memorable moments of Arena musicals, and with music director Laura Bergquist, in this production that mixes big band, jazz, gospel and R&B?
CT: The production we are creating is so much fun! The entire company, creative team, design team, and cast are at the top of their game. I think audiences will really enjoy what we’ve done with the show. I think whether you’ve seen it before or not, you aren’t going to want to miss this go around.
SW: This musical has been described as “a love letter to the 1960s imbued with a modern sensibility.” You recently completed the Broadway run of a homage to 1960’s music, Ain’t Too Proud. What is it about that we so love about the music of this era?
CT: The 60’s is just a fantastic decade for culture. The music, the fashion, the vibe of the 60’s is so much fun to dive into!
SW: This role is not just a combination of many characters that the con man plays, but requires a combination of musical skills, storytelling and dancing as an athletic form. Any advice for actors, especially for live musicals about developing multi-talents?
CT: Such a great question! I think the big thing is to allow yourself to be great in all aspects. We often like to qualify our talents, “oh I’m mainly a this or that.” I’ve recently given myself the grace to be a whole performer. I sing, dance, act, and write, and I believe I can be great at all of them. We talk to ourselves more than anyone else. Make sure it’s a positive conversation.
Catch Me If You Can runs from March 4 – April 17, 2022. Discounted tickets for Southwest neighbors are available for the productions on March 8 and March 11. For more information, visit