ORLANDO – The Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and runs through May 29. This year the nearly three-week long festival will feature the largest line-up of shows in its history.
Fringe is the ideal place to see original shows, sometimes by new, emerging artists, and other times by artists from different parts of the country (or the world) performing in front of Orlando crowds for the first time.
But some artists like to offer their take on materials that has already been on Broadway and gone on national tours. That’s exactly what Jonathan Jimenez is doing this year, by paying tribute to composer Andrew Lippa, best known for music and lyrics of Broadway musicals like “The Addams Family,” “Big Fish” and “The Wild Party.”
For his Fringe show, Jonathan is staging Lippa’s “John & Jen The Musical,” the show about a brother and sister at different ages and stages in their lives who play, tease each other, and at times argue.
Jonathan, who will also play the lead role of John (with Mikaela A. Duffy as Jen), noted that the two characters are “also engaging concepts of togetherness, social freedom, and the true meaning of family.”
Freeline Media contacted Jonathan to leave more about his show.
Freeline Media: Is this a full-length version of “John & Jen,” or abbreviated for Fringe?
Jonathan Jimenez: I emailed Andrew Lippa, the writer/composer, to see if he would allow a shorter version of the show for the Orlando Fringe Festival, and he himself suggested we perform just the first act. I thought it was a great idea because the first act is really the one I love. It’s so dynamic! And I don’t want to say what happens at the end, for people who have not seen it, but I’m excited to hear audience’s reactions.
FM: What inspired you to bring this show to Fringe, which tends to focus more heavily on original pieces or solo acts?
Jonathan: I think maybe Fringe has mostly original acts because the performance rights to shows like “John & Jen” are very expensive. People want to try to turn a profit, in most cases. But for me this time it was more about putting on a show of proven high quality. I immensely enjoy ‘fringy’ shows, but not all of them work. Plus I didn’t have any such material to work with, nor am I a proficient script writer yet. A few years ago I helped bring and build Trey Parker’s “Cannibal! The musical” to a very successful Fringe run. I’m hoping “John & Jen” has similar results.
FM: Did you feel like the show had some interesting, challenging things to say about relationships today?
Jonathan: John and Jen are siblings. So this isn’t your typical show about a love story. They look after each other, play, tease each other, and argue. Who do you know better than someone with whom you grew up? Sometimes the ones we love most are also the ones we hurt. And if you do hurt them, can you mend those relationships in time?
FM: How you been a longtime fan of Andrew Lippa’s work?
Jonathan: A little under 20 years ago I saw a production of “John & Jen” at Melbourne High School. I thought it was clever and entertaining, and have been listening and signing along to it on and off since then. I also enjoy Andrew Lippa’s more recent work, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “The Addams Family,” “Big Fish” and “The Wild Party.”
FM: Any plans to take this show beyond Orlando Fringe?
Jonathan: Due to the aforementioned performance rights, we do not have plans past Fringe. But we are hoping to get Patron’s Pick, so we can go out with a bang. I have recruited some amazing musicians who will perform live in the venue. We have been working very hard, and hope we can make people think, and remember to cherish those they love, while also getting in a few laughs.
“John & Jen The Musical” will be performed in the Purple Venue on the following dates:
* Wednesday, May 17 at 8 p.m.
* Friday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 2:15 p.m.
* Monday, May 22 at 5:45 p.m.
* Thursday, May 25 at 8:45 p.m.
* Saturday, May 27 at 10:15 p.m.
* Sunday, May 28 at 11:15 a.m.
For tickets, visit Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..