by Stephen Dafoe
It’s been a couple years since Rory Turner performed in a play at Morinville Community High School, but the Grant MacEwan University Theatre student’s passion for the arts is as large as it ever was. In his second year at MacEwan, Turner has landed the lead in Big Fish, running Feb. 4 to 14 at the John L. Haar Theatre, Centre for the Arts and Communications Campus at the school.
Big Fish originated in a novel by Daniel Wallace. Tim Burton adapted the novel for film and Tony nominee Andrew Lippa has turned it into a new Broadway musical based on the previous works.
In the MacEwan production of the musical, Turner plays Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman who lives life to its fullest.
“It’s a story about families, specifically the relationship between fathers and sons, mothers and sons, husbands and wives,” Turner said. He added the production explores the need to tie up loose threads before a life passes, in this case, the life of the lead character.”
Turner plays Edward Bloom from the age of 13 until his final moments, looking at the character at different stages of his life.
“It’s neat to play with physicality and voice placement for it,” Turner said. “It’s getting to a more young feeling and higher voice placement at 13 all the way up to 60 or 70ish where he had cancer and had a stroke. On his deathbed [it was a challenge] playing it without turning it into a caricature, but keeping it honest.”
The production is Turner’s first lead since studying at MacEwan. The actor said scene study and monologue dominated year one in order to give students the skills to put together a larger work. The second year will include three shows. Big Fish is the school’s second production this year. They previously performed Catch Me If you Can last fall, a musical based on the life of conman Frank Abigail Jr.
In that production, Turner player another father, the father of the play’s love interest.
“It’s strange because both characters are southern United States fathers with ideals,” he said. “It’s neat to have similar actions and stature but a different twist. Everything about Edward Bloom is larger than life.”
Turner was a regular in a number of MCHS productions, including Pirates of Penzance and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The latter production saw Turner playing Willy Wonka, the former, the Pirate King.
The actor finds the experience similar to his experience on the MCHS stage but a lot more intense. “In high school [rehearsals] were three hours a day after classes,” he said. “These [MacEwan productions] we rehearse every day from 2:30 until 10, and we’re just constantly working at it. It was a great place to start at MCHS where we were focused on making good theatre. This is just the next step in taking everything that I’ve learned throughout the process and making it that much better.”
Turner looked fondly back on his time at the high school and said he’d not be where he is now if not for the experience there. “I remember when I played Willy Wonka and singing for the first time,” he said. “Before that I didn’t think of myself as a singer at ll. Having that experience told me maybe I can do this. I think that role was a turning point in my musical ambitions.”
Big Fish takes place Feb. 4 to 14 daily except for Monday.
Ticket prices range from $15.00 to $20.00, depending on the event date, time, and ticket type. Tickets are available at Tix on the Square at http://www.tixonthesquare.ca/event/run/detail/985/.