CATCH ME IF YOU CAN started its U.S. Tour in Providence Rhode Island this week. As the tour begins, there are many cities along the way they will stop in. Merritt David Janes, who plays the role of Carl Hanratty, is looking forward to a return visit to San Antonio as one of the early stops on this brand new tour. As Merritt shared experiences, it was easy to see why he was a perfect fit for this role in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.
How did you get interested in theatre?
My mother was concert mistress of the Vermont Philharmonic so I studied music from a young age. We discovered I was a hambone at some point. I’ve always been interested in theatre. She’s been playing in the pit for the local theatre in Vermont where I’m from. I think from a young age I saw people performing and I got really interested in it. I got to sing and do a little acting as I got older. I went to the University of Maine for Music. Then I went to theatre school at Circle in the Square Theatre. From there I got my first job as The Wedding Singer. I’ve been to San Antonio 3 times. I was there with the Wedding Singer (playing Robbie Hart), and went right into Sweeney Todd (playing Sweeney Todd). Then with Beauty and the Beast (playing Lumiere), I was also there. Now for my 4th tour, I’m coming in playing Carl Hanratty with Catch me if you Can. This will be my 4th time in San Antonio. I’m really excited about it.
What were some of the shows you were in while at school?
At the University of Maine I actually didn’t do any musicals or musical theatre. I went there primarily for music school. I did a lot of performing musically. I majored in trumpet and voice. I conducted my own group. I went on a European concert tour and performed as a tenor soloist with the singers on 4 separate European concert tours. We went to a lot of international competitions and that did very well. It was a big musical focus not a musical theatre focus. For musical theatre I did a lot of work in high school and in the summers I would do productions with my local theatre in Colchester, Vermont one of which was the Complete Works of Shakespeare. It was the America abridged. I did Little Shop of Horrors. When I graduated college, I did Grease and then when I graduated theatre school I went right on tour.
What was one of the craziest jobs you ever had?
I appreciate my job every day because for a summer there in college I worked at the post office. I did the midnight shift; 11:30 at night to 9:30 in the morning. I didn’t see the sun at all. I’m just thankful that I am doing something where I can wake up and enjoy the day. I met a lot of great people there (working at the post office) but that job made me appreciate the sunshine.
Of all the characters you have played, which one seems to be the one you relate to the most and why?
I think I relate to all of them. That’s part of my job as an actor is to find The Common thread to identify with each character regardless of what their circumstances. The whole if this were me how would I react in these circumstances is the question we all have to ask ourselves. So, I can identify with all of them. Robbie Hart, he had a band in Jersey, I had a band in Jersey when I was living in New York. I identified with that character based on the fact that I had a band in Jersey. Sweeney Todd is a serial killer and you might not think that you could identify with a serial killer, but part of my job as an actor is to think of how to make those parallel lines meet. I’ve never killed anyone but I’ve slaughtered a fly. As I looked at the character more and more I discovered that Sweeney Todd thought about killing someone as I think about swatting a fly. So, that’s a way to relate to the character. Lumiere has this spell on him, it’s like a curse and he’s trying to break the curse. He’s trying to get these two lovebirds together. I remember when I was a kid I always wanted to do that with my parents who were divorced. That never happened. They never got back together but I remember feeling that everything would be ok if I could get them to reconnect someway along with many other things. In Shrek, Lord Farquaad; that’s a very comedic role and I identify a lot to my comedic idols. I love Jim Carey and Robin Williams and Jack Black. There are these moments where I hear their voices in doing that. These are really over the top physical performers too so I identify with that character. The visceral of Carl Hanratty is a chase story; it’s a true story. I think that’s the great thing that everyone’s going to want to come to see it. I would say to the people who might not be thinking of us necessarily as their first choice that this is the only true story you are going to get. This story is all true. It all happened and it’s really fascinating, it’s a true story and that’s what makes it exciting. I try to identify. I chase down jobs, I chase down roles. Everyone is involved in a chase of some sort. So you have to think of those things that you chase. When you think of the chase story element; Carl Hanratty is chasing down Frank Jr. It has all the elements of great classic fictional chase story that we know, Moby Dick being one of them; The Fugitive and these help me relate to this chase story. Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive brings his own flavor to it. As an actor you can’t forget yourself in the process. It’s not just playing a role that someone’s already played. Tom Hanks is a fantastic actor as well as Norbert Leo Butz. I hope I can come close to doing it as much justice as they did but it’s going to be different because I can’t forget myself in the process. You won’t be seeing a regurgitation of anything, you’re going to see a completely new approach to the same story that everybody had with a unique flavor of the actor. My co-star, Stephen Anthony does that better than anyone. He’s a really fantastic actor. He’s the actor that this role that the musical production needs. He’s going to bring something new and exciting to it that no one else has brought to it before. Musically and creatively in terms of the acting role as well.