The first national tour of Catch Me If You Can, the musical that tells the story of legendary con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. cruises into Denver this week. Sharing the same name as the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the musical version equally embraces nostalgia for 1960’s America and the musical theatricality of Broadway. Stephen Anthony plays Frank Jr., the infamous charlatan pursued by federal agent Carl Hanratty over the course of the musical.
Musicals based on movies have the unique challenge of staying true to the story that most audience members are familiar with, while adding in unique elements that can only thrive in front of a live audience. Portraying one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best-known characters without falling into imitation presents a challenge for any actor. “I’m such a huge fan of the movie,” says Anthony, “The challenge was … to not imitate DiCaprio — as an artist you want to develop your own unique take.” Luckily the musicalization of the story helps a great deal with this challenge. “The songs and dances add such a flavor of fun to the adventure, it absolutely sets it apart from the movie,” resolves Anthony.
In addition to that initial challenge, being an actor playing a conman (and a good one) requires a layered performance. “I’m the worst liar,” confesses Anthony. “I don’t think I’d last a week. I would end up Tweeting something incriminating immediately.” Certainly today’s online, networked social structure would have thwarted Frank Jr. as well. But traveling back to a time without Tweeting is one of the charms of this colorful musical. “The story itself has become something of an American legend,” says Anthony. “We are obsessed with the idea of a con man – the seemingly glamorous life of adventure without responsibility.” But embodying that legend reveals that it might not be as attractive as it sounds. “It all sounds fun in theory, but life as a con man turns out to be very lonely,” offers Anthony. “I don’t think I would last very long at all without my friends.”
This musicalization of this legendary story seems to have something of for everyone. For those interested in the action and adventure, Anthony thinks it makes for a great date night out. “The chase story between the con man and the FBI is such a guy’s story. But then of course there are all the flashy dance numbers and amazing songs that the girls will love.” As for what Anthony loves most? “It’s so special to have this rich exciting story told about a sixteen year old – and a true story at that! I’ve always wanted the chance to play a real person- to honor their legacy.” As his first national tour, Anthony is appreciating every moment, on and off stage. “I’m so fortunate to be part of such an incredible show,” he reflects. “I’m really just living for this adventure right now!”