IF YOU GO
What: Musical version of the 2002 film about a teen con man
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers
Cost: $67, $52, $42, $32
Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com
Something Else: Parking is sometimes chaotic because of evening classes at Edison College. Park farther out and escape the after-show traffic jams.
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
FORT MYERS — Merritt David Janes had one question when he approached "Catch Me If You Can," the musical version of the 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks film about a con man who posed as a pilot, lawyer and doctor - all before his 19th birthday.
"Why would you make that a musical?" Janes asked.
Yet, he said one clip from the film convinced him - a shot of DiCaprio prancing down an airport terminal with a bevy of leggy stewardesses on each arm.
"Catch Me If You Can" was inspired by the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. Abagnale flew a plane for Pan Am, taught a course at Columbia and impersonated a doctor at a Georgia hospital. Abagnale served prison terms in three countries - and later became a consultant for the FBI, advising banks on fraud techniques. Janes plays Carl Hanratty (the Tom Hanks role), an FBI agent who pursues Abagnale.
"This show is fantastic," Janes said. "We've got a talented cast that will knock your socks off."
The musical version of "Catch Me If You Can" follows much of the storyline of the movie, although it wraps the story up a bit sooner. The show also features "a completely original soundtrack," Janes said.
Abagnale has even come out to meet the cast on tour.
"We've gotten to know Frank real well," Janes said. "He doesn't take any money."
When asked to reflect on the show, Janes pauses, then says that "we're all actors telling Frank's story … in some way, Frank is the ultimate actor."
Janes believes audiences will connect with the show, not just because it is based on a true story, but because "Catch Me If You Can" is even more entertaining and more fascinating than the film.
He points to the clever transition moments that allow characters to whip between scenes, as well as the "fantastic dancers."
"I work really hard to keep with up them," the actor laughs.
Janes adores the entire show, but likes the song "Don't Break the Rules," which comes near the middle of the first half.
"I love that number," Janes said. "even though I get a little nervous."
During "Don't Break the Rules," he shares the stage with nearly the entire cast as he belts out a word of advice to the unknown fraudster (Abagnale) writing millions in fake checks.
"It is just a fantastic time," Janes recounts.
Beyond the singing, dancing and verbal sparring, Janes said that "Catch Me If You Can" is a story of redemption.
"This kid in the 1960s trades in his whole life because he wasn't happy where he was," Janes said. "He didn't think about consequences. He went to prison and rebuilt his life."
"Catch Me If You Can" will also be a bit of a homecoming for Janes. The actor has played Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on four previous national tours, dating back to 2008. Previous stops include "The Wedding Singer" (2008); "Sweeney Todd" (2009); "Beauty and the Beast" (2010) and "Shrek" (2011).
"I love coming to Fort Myers," Janes said. "The beach is great!"