Jedlicka catches ‘Big Fish’ with special license

‘Big Fish’

Where: Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, 3801 S. Central Ave., Cicero

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, July 27-Aug. 9; press performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 25 and Saturday, July 26

Cost: $18, $16 seniors

For more info: (708) 656-1800; www.jpactheatre.com

Dante J. Orfei landed a whopper. The artistic director of Jedlicka Performing Arts Center was given permission to stage the new hit Broadway musical, “Big Fish.”

“’Big Fish’ was not supposed to become available until September and we were able to convince the people in New York to license us for the show opening in July,” Orfei said. The show previewed in Chicago in 2013 but significant changes were made before the Broadway opening later that year.

The musical by Andrew Lippa (music and lyrics) and John August (book) is based on the Daniel Wallace novel of the same name, which became a 2003 Tim Burton film. It’s the story of a traveling salesman named Edward Bloom who tells fantastical tales and his son Will, who wants to unravel the truth behind those stories.

“Will is a very reasonable and realistic man,” said actor Taylor Okey. “He thinks very logically. He lives in a square world. There isn’t a lot of imagination to him. Everything has a right way and a wrong way.”

Will is the polar opposite of Edward. “His father is a very colorful, creative and imaginative man,” Okey said. “There’s definitely a strain in the relationship. Will doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his father.”

Serving as a bridge between father and son is Will’s fiancé Josephine, played by Morgan Glynn Briggs of Oak Park.

“Josephine sort of serves as a go-between between him and his dad,” Briggs said. “She tends to be the person who redirects the tense situation.”

She added that Josephine, “is very level-headed and calm. I think she’s a romantic at heart. She wants to believe the best in everybody and wants to make everybody happy.”

Briggs is a fan of the movie. “It was one of those ones in high school that you watch over and over and over again,” she related. That’s why Briggs auditioned. “I thought it would be a really fun show to be a part of,” she said.

The actor is a little surprised, though, that her character has only one musical moment. “Normally I am a big singer in musicals,” she reported. “It’s an interesting challenge for me to be in a musical and not sing or dance.”

When Okey secured the role, he read the novel twice but decided not to see the film until after the run of the show. “I didn’t want the movie to affect my choices about the character,” he explained.

The actor loves playing Will because, “He has such an incredible journey throughout the show.”

“Big Fish” is not an easy show to stage but that doesn’t faze Orfei. He revealed that the most enjoyable part of the process so far has been, “thinking of creative ways to do a lot of fantasies without a 17 million dollar budget.”

That’s not the most important element, though, the director insisted. “It’s great to have that kind of technical wizardry but, at the same time, we have a plot and story that actually will touch the hearts of the people sitting in the theater watching it.”

‘Big Fish’

Where: Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, 3801 S. Central Ave., Cicero

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, July 27-Aug. 9; press performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 25 and Saturday, July 26

Cost: $18, $16 seniors

For more info: (708) 656-1800; www.jpactheatre.com

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