If you saw the hit DreamWorks film “Catch Me If You Can,” with Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christopher Walken, you know that it’s the amazing, true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a world-class con artist who passed himself off as a doctor, a lawyer and a jet pilot – all before the age of 21.
If you also happen to be a musical theatre fan, you know that the film inspired a Tony-nominated Broadway hit by the same name that’s headed to the Fisher Theater for a limited engagement, May 7-19. And playing the role of Frank Abagnale, Sr. – the role played by Walken in the film – is one of Michigan’s native sons, Dominic Fortuna.
Dominic was born in Detroit and raised “up north” in the Torch Lake area where he attended Bellaire High School. He’s been seen on Broadway and across America as Vince Fontaine in Grease, has a list of TV appearances, and toured for many years as a member of The Young Americans. As if that’s not enough for one man’s resume, he has also written, directed and performed in almost 50 shows with his unique dinner theater production.
Dominic is a true Michigander, and he graciously offered to answer some of our questions before he arrives next week with the national tour of “Catch Me If You Can,” as part of the Broadway in Detroit series.
Q. Tell us what it was like growing up in northern Michigan and how you got involved with “show biz.”
Dominic: I was born in Detroit, actually, and we vacationed on Torch Lake. So when my dad decided to move there it was like vacation every day to an 11-year old! My mom and dad were both singers and I had an uncle “in the biz” (Johnny Desmond). I was surrounded by music constantly – from mom and dad singing around the house to realizing that if I sang and kept customers in our restaurant on Torch Lake, I didn’t have to go in the kitchen and do dishes or make pizzas with my brothers. My dad was the one who really saw my talent and built me a stage there at our restaurant and encouraged me to join the Young Americans shortly after high school.
Q. When you’re not touring with popular Broadway shows, you perform on your own – in dinner theatre up in Williamsburg? How do you make it all work?
Dominic: I have in the past, but now I actually am focusing on my bands (I have a duo, a trio and a full band), and we kind of take our dinner theater concept on the road around Michigan. We do a lot of fundraisers and specials for local restaurants and venues. It’s more like – how could I make it work without performing! It’s what I do – my wife performs with us and helps with the bookings and contracts, so it’s just what we do. We love it!
Q. You already performed at the Fisher Theatre a few years ago, in the national tour of “Grease” with Taylor Hicks – correct? What was that like? Did you think then you’d be back? Are you looking forward to it?
Dominic: I did! It was great – more than I ever expected! I was born in Detroit, so it is always kind of emotional for me there, in a good way. A lot of my family is still there. It’s just a great thing to be able to feel “at home” at such a great, historical venue. I hoped I would be back – not sure if I expected it to be this way.
Q. Tell us about your role in “Catch Me If You Can.” Do you have a favorite moment in the play?
Dominic: I play Frank Abagnale, Sr. – the father of the infamous teenage con-man. I love this role! I love the challenge that I am playing an actual person who existed – someone’s father. It is a really well-rounded role, too. I think my favorite moment in the play is my song with Stephen Anthony (Frank, Jr.) “Butter Outta Cream.” First of all, Stephen is such a great kid and an amazing talent, so it’s just fun to perform alongside him. It is a great song in itself and has a big vocal range for me. Also, it really shows off our father/son chemistry. And as for my character, it is really the pinnacle of the “good” before the downfall he goes through.
Q. So, while you’re touring, do you have time to keep all the other plates spinning?
Dominic: I will be doing a one-man-show dinner theater at The Pelican Room in Central Lake, MI, this summer and have a few more “logs in the fire” around the state. Like I said, we do fundraisers and special events. I also do weddings, and play basically any venue with my bands.
Q. You’ve done so many things in your career – performing with The Young Americans, warming up for Dean Martin, writing and producing your own dinner theatre, performing on Broadway – what’s left that you’d like to try?
Dominic: I would love to experience acting in front of a camera. TV or movies. Although, I feel at home on stage in front of live audiences, so I always look for opportunities to do that; but for something different, I’d love to experience filming.
You can catch Dominic Fortuna in “Catch Me If You Can” starting next week, May 7-19, at the Fisher Theatre. Tickets are on sale at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1-800-982-2787, online at Broadway In Detroit, or at the Fisher Theatre box office.
Our thanks to Dominic – and break a leg!