DENVER | Dominic Fortuna got a slight case of the nerves when he learned that Frank Abagnale would be in the audience for a performance of “Catch Me If You Can: The Musical.” Like the film from 2002 directed by Steven Spielberg, the stageshow was based on Abagnale’s life story. And like the movie, the show detailed Abagnale’s series of crimes and scams that eventually caught the attention of the FBI, and ended with a drawn-out pursuit across the globe. Fortuna, who plays Abagnale’s father in the show, said his fear was unfounded. He got positive feedback from Abagnale and the praise has only strengthened his commitment to the show, which runs at the Buell Theatre in Denver from Feb. 26 to March 10. We caught up with Fortuna to talk about his meeting with Abagnale and the draw of being a part of the touring company.
Aurora Sentinel: You play Frank Abagnale Sr., the father of the teenage con artist who’s at the center of the show. How does the role figure into the plot?
Dominic Fortuna: Frank Abagnale Sr. plays a pretty big part of telling the story. The scenes that he’s in are really just snapshots. You don’t get a lot of time to tell the story; each scene is not that long, but it tells a lot. There’s lots to dig in to. There’s the relationship with your son, losing your wife to a divorce, being investigated by the IRS. It’s a great role.
Considering that the show is partly based on the 2002 film directed by Steven Spielberg, is there a different dynamic going into the show?
That doesn’t really even cross my mind when I’m going out there. I’m telling the story.
I try to relax and tell the truth and it’s been very successful for me. The real Frank Abagnale Jr. has come to see the show and he’s said we tell the story better than the movie. A lot of people will think, ‘Really, they made a musical out of it?’ But it covers all the bases.
Did having Frank Abagnale Jr. in the audience add to the pressure of the performance?
That did shake me a little bit. Here I was playing his father and I was really close to my dad. When you get that raw, and that’s part of the neat part of the show, you get to see the humanity of this family and what they’ve gone through. To be that raw and to have to do it in front of the person was difficult. I found my heart beating a little faster.
What questions did you want to ask the real Frank Abagnale Jr.?
I wanted to know what his favorite place was that he’d been to, what was his favorite scam. He said that he had one time dressed up as a bank guard and had a sign made up that said the bank deposit system had broke down and they just needed to put their money in this little box. He got away with a lot of it, but he paid the price for what he did.
Was it easy to connect the man with the character from the show? Was it easy to see him as a master scammer and criminal?
Not at all. He’s so soft spoken, just a very nice and easygoing man. Most of the time, when you talk to him about his story, he was a 16-year-old kid. He chose to run away. He didn’t have anything. He was so brave, but he didn’t know any better. He just took these chances and kept getting away with it.
What are the differences between the movie and the stage show?
I think it shows a little more of the relationship between Frank Jr. and Frank Sr. and his mother. You didn’t see that as much in the movie. You’ll see how the story revisits his mother and where his mother was, where the father was, how he met up with his father several different times as he was going along with his scams.
What role does the music play in this show?
It covers a lot of what was going on in the 1960s: the Rat Pack era, big bands, Bossa Nova beats, a little bit of the English invasion, Dusty Springfield’s music, Phil Spector …
The orchestra is unbelievable. It makes you remember the time when the trumpet was an instrument like the electric guitar, when people would go crazy for it.
Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at email@example.com or 720-449-9707