Northern Light go from strength to strength. This musical adaptation of the well-loved movie preserves the audacity of the central character and plot while adding considerable comedy and flair. The production team of director Michelle Davy, MD Serena Cann and Choreographer Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti deserve great credit for their work in giving this production the necessary character and life. They brought us a well-paced and technically polished performance.
Key to the show’s success is of course the successful characterisation of the youthful con artist, Fank Abagnale Jr. Deon Martino-Williams carries the character, and therefore the plot, with ease. His Frank Jr is irrepressible, chirpy, playfully sly and entirely credible. He brings the same character to his many songs and draws much meaning through them. It was a performance not to be missed.
He was wonderfully balanced by his chief opponent and pursuer, Agent Carl Hanratty, masterfully played by David Macgillivray. His Hanratty was both seriously determined and focussed but also very funny. His comic timing was effortless.
Melanie Cowmeadow was outstanding playing Brenda, opposite Frank Jr. At first effectively understated and convincingly coy, she blossomed – and how! – in her powerful solo Fly, Fly Away. Gus Smith and Claire Birbeck were entertaining and amusing as Brenda’s parents, while Ali Craig was an alluring Laula Abagnale, Frank Jr’s mother.
Of those in parent roles Gavin Ciani was prime. He brought us both sassy entertainment and poignancy as the archetypical hustling dad, Frank Abagnale Sr. Among other acting and singing strengths, his drunken scenes were very well wrought. In them he showed care, avoiding the unconvincing fall-about overacting some performers fall into.
It’s worth noting that overall, in all major and minor roles, there were very few weak links. There was a satisfying balance to the whole production.
This was a large cast, and the whole ensemble worked well. Several of the songs became singing and dancing show-stoppers with tuneful harmonies and inventive, well-rehearsed choreography. All the action took place on and within Michelle Davy’s and John Sheehan’s well devised set, with well chosen images playing on the three screens, all well served by Tom Lloyd’s colourful lighting plot.
Finally, the show’s aural success came from the successful blend of the strong, tuneful voices subtly and generously supported by the band, suitably arrayed on the top level of the functional set.
This is a musical well worth seeing. Anyone in the enthusiastically impressed opening night audience would agree.