'Catch Me If You Can' Debuts in Minnesota: Q&A with Merritt David Janes

Updated: 12/07/2012 9:38 PM KSTP.com By: Sarina Long

Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

Catch Me If You Can is based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., a 16-year-old who runs away from home in search of love, and a better life -- all before age 21.

You may be familiar with the hit 2002 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the continent-hopping Abagnale Jr. and Tom Hanks as FBI agent, Carl Hanratty. The Broadway musical debuts at Hennepin Theatre Trust's Orpheum Theatre next Tuesday, December 11 through Sunday, December 16. The live stage version will star Stephen Anthony as Abagnale, Jr. and Merritt David Janes as Carl Hanratty.

We had a chance to speak with Merritt David Jones about the upcoming show.

A lot of people are familiar with Steven Spielberg's version of Catch Me If You Can. Is this a live version of the movie or are there differences in the story?

We share the same story on stage that everyone may be familiar with whether they saw the movie or read Frank's incredible autobiography. 

It's a classic chase story like Moby Dick, Les Misérables but this is very recently a true story. With nothing more than his boyish charm, a big imagination and millions of dollars in forged checks, Frank poses as a jet pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer while living the high life. Problem is as he spins a web of lies he also catches the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty.

The best part is when Frank visits the tour and we all get to hear pieces of his story. He gets up and tells his story but also answers questions. Frank was just a kid and didn't think of the consequences but he go to turn himself around. He worked for the FBI and in fact his son also works for the FBI now too.

Tom Hanks is regarded as one of the best in the business. Were you weary at all to create a character as good as him on stage? How did you prepare?

I did a ton of research to prepare for this role. After seeing the movie, I showed a lot of interest in the role of Carl Hanratty and here I am. You have to really understand the circumstances and the story is like a unique puzzle to anyone who's playing the part.

Tell us about the relationship between Frank and Carl. It's not your typical cop and robber story.

No, it's definitely not. When you hear Frank tell his story, it was about survival. Carl developed a concern for the kid and recognized his talents. The two of them worked on stopping the mischievous behavior in the future.

By the way, did you know that Frank played an intricate role in solving the Bernie Madoff case?

Spielberg did a great job with the costumes and set playing to the 60s era. Will the musical follow suit?

This show will definitely bring you back into the 60s. For all the guys out there who may be hesitating to come check the show out, I'll tell you this, we've got great eye candy. Our Pan Am stewardesses look fantastic. Our music is top notch, in fact you'll think you stepped into a club the minute they start to play. They have big band sound that is just incredible.

What can the audience expect?

I know a lot of people are probably thinking, "Catch Me If You Can. Why would anybody make that a musical?" We may not be the obvious first choice for a Broadway musical but the audience is in for a great evening. This entertaining musical has been created by a Tony Award®-winning dream team -- a book by Terrence McNally (The Full Monty, Ragtime), a swinging score by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman (Hairspray), choreography by Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Legally Blonde) and direction by Jack O'Brien (Hairspray, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

Bottom line, you have to be willing to discover and acquaint yourself with this unique story.

Don't miss Catch Me If You Can a musical adventure based on an astonishing real-life story of being young, in love, and in deep, deep trouble!

Orpheum Theatre
$34.00 to $79.00
Runtime: Two hours, 30 minutes including one intermission
For more information, visit www.hennepintheatretrust.org/events
Sarina Long is an entertainment writer for KSTP.com
Follow her @SarinaBL