Catch him, if you can

By Dylan Sowle
Courtesy photo

From Michigan dinner theater to Broadway

Monday, April 14 — Actor Dominic Fortuna, part of the touring production of “Catch Me If You Can” hitting the Wharton Center on Tuesday, has roots in small-town dinner theater in northern Michigan. The Antwerp County native plays the main character’s father in the musical adaptation, a role originated by Christopher Walken in the Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster. Fortuna says he's a big fan of the oft-imitated Walken, but he's leaving the celebrity impressions out for this one.

“I'm usually the first to do an impersonation, but I really wanted to take on this role as Dominic,” Fortuna said. “I feel satisfied as an actor because I've always known I could do a role like this but never had an opportunity.”

The character is a step toward the serious side for Fortuna; his last major stint was the fun-loving emcee Vince Fontaine in the Grease tour. Fortuna even landed a spot as the warm-up act for the tour, in full Vince Fontaine character, bringing in songs from his dinner theater gigs. Although he enjoys the touring life, Fortuna says he always looks forward to getting back home to northern Michigan where he can relax and play music at the local venues.

Until then, he'll have to be content giving new life to the 2002 Spielberg film, which initially might seem an unlikely choice for musical adaptation. But the biographical story of Frank Abagnale Jr.'s life as a con artist seems to have made a seamless transition to the stage.

“Audiences have been saying it's the best in the Broadway series this year,” Fortuna said, adding that the musical feels like a very natural extension to the film. And winning points with the hometown crowd doesn't hurt — he considers himself a huge Michigan State University fan, with all his family having attended the school.

After the tour's over, Fortuna will be heading back to the more relaxed life up in Michigan, but that doesn't bother him one bit.

“I'm just looking forward to coming home at the end of June, playing some festivals around Michigan, and seeing what comes next,” he said. “I'm really passionate about getting into a honky-tonk bar, grabbing my guitar player, and just doing songs. Relating to the audience and getting to know them — that's my favorite thing.”

“Catch Me If You Can”

Wharton Center

April 16-21

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,