When the national tour of "Catch Me If You Can" rolls into Chicago for a 16-performance run at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, two actors making their touring debuts will be returning to their home state.
Trevor Leaderbrand of Mundelein and Grayslake is part of the general ensemble, while Ben Laxton of Bloomington, Ill., plays the supporting part of FBI Agent Dollar among other unnamed chorus roles. But if leading man Stephen Anthony misses a performance, then Laxon and Leaderbrand both get the chance to move up the show's chain of command.
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Location: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com
Showtimes: Tuesday, April 2, through Sunday, April 14: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (also April 7); 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday (also April 10)
Laxton is an understudy for the role of con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. And when Laxton goes on for Anthony as Frank, then Leaderbrand gets to play Agent Dollar and Laxton's other roles.
Abagnale's notorious real-life exploits in forging checks and impersonating an airline pilot and a doctor in the 1960s later inspired Steven Spielberg's hit 2002 caper film that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. The film in turn inspired the 2011 Broadway musical with the Tony Award-winning creative team of songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman ("Hairspray," "Smash"), playwright Terrence McNally ("Ragtime," "The Full Monty"), choreographer Jerry Mitchell ("Legally Blonde," "Kinky Boots") and director Jack O'Brien ("Hairspray," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels").
"I'm so excited when I'm playing Frank and it's literally a dream come true," said Laxton, who saw "Catch Me If You Can" during its five-month Broadway run and decided then and there that he would love to play the part either regionally or on tour. "When I go on, it's a blast and the cast is so supportive, and then when I go back (to my regular roles), I get to take a breath."
Laxton's Bloomington parents were also lucky when they where in Memphis for a wedding at the same time that "Catch Me If You Can" was playing in that town.
"The first time that my parents were there, I happened to go on that day as Frank," Laxton said. "There was bronchitis going though the cast at the time, and it just happened to work out like that."
Laxton's family plans on seeing the show again in Chicago, when it opens Tuesday, April 2, as does Leaderbrand's extended family from Lake County. And as an alum of Mundelein's Carmel Catholic High School, Leaderbrand has also tentatively arranged for a school choir field trip to see the show with a backstage tour.
"I'm really just excited to go back to Grayslake and commute to the show because it's always been a dream of mine to work in one of Chicago's downtown theaters," said Leaderbrand, who plans on spending part of the Chicago run with his family and taking the Metra in to work. "Free laundry is also a big plus."
"Catch Me If You Can" didn't turn out to be the big Broadway smash that many had hoped for, so the financing of the tour necessitated a nonunion acting company. But since this is the show's first national tour, it's playing major cities with longer runs than most nonunion tours.
For both Laxton and Leaderbrand, the opportunity to tour with "Catch Me If You Can" has been invaluable -- particularly since they got to work with the original Broadway creative team as they re-evaluated the material and the show's staging in rehearsals.
"One of the things that (director Jack O'Brien) talked to us about was, 'We don't see this just as the tour of the Broadway show, we see this as the next birth of this production,'" said Laxton, who confirms that "Catch Me If You Can" is still structured like a fantasy 1960s TV variety show revue, though the script has been streamlined. "They kind of took out a few of the things that it was a reminder that it was a show within a show."
"It was almost like creating a new show to a degree," said Leaderbrand, noting how songwriters Shaiman and Wittman reconsidered songs that were tossed after the show's Seattle tryout. "Honestly, it was an honor to score this show my first time out."