'Jewtopia' to open N.B. Film Festival

Turn up the "klezmer" — that's Yiddish for music — the opening night of the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival is going to be quite the shindig.

"Jewtopia," staring Ivan Sergei, Joel David Moore and Jennifer Love Hewitt, kicks off the 13th year of the annual festival with its world premiere at 7:30 p.m. April 26 at Edwards Big Newport.

"We are extremely proud to open the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival with the world premiere of 'Jewtopia,'" festival Chief Executive Gregg Schwenk said in a prepared statement. "The film, based on the highly popular play, is a comedic and satirical look at relationships and relations.

"Our gala following the premiere will present 30 of the top restaurants from Orange County and a special performance of 'Million Dollar Quartet.' An evening not to be missed."

The film, directed and co-scripted by Bryan Fogel with business partner Sam Wolfson, also stars Jon Lovitz (a UC Irvine alumnus), Rita Wilson, Tom Arnold, Peter Stormare, Camryn Manheim, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Wendie Malick, Nicollette Sheridan, Phil Rosenthal, Christine Lakin, Hayes MacArthur and Lin Shaye.

It follows Christian O'Connell (Sergei) and Adam Lipschitz (Moore) as two childhood friends who hatch a comedic plan to help Sergei's character marry a Jewish woman played by Hewitt. Along the way, the characters undergo struggles surrounding love, family and ultimately what it means to be happy.

"It doesn't matter if you're Jewish or not — it's the universal theme of finding love," Fogel said. "It's about doing what your family wants you to do versus doing what you want to do."

Fogel likened the film's broad appeal and romantic comedic elements to other humorous films such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Wedding Crashers."

The film's screenplay is an adapted version of the stage play, which opened in Los Angeles in 2004 to sold-out audiences for more than 300 shows over a 16-month period, according to the Jewtopia website.

However, while inspired by the stage play, the dialogue, interaction between characters and plot line in the film is all its own, Fogel said.

"The same kernel of the idea, and the same kind of comedy that made the show so successful, is in the film," Fogel said. "But, it's in a much bigger sense in that the film has a much bigger cast and there were things we could do in the film that we couldn't accomplish on stage."

"Jewtopia" is Fogel's first foray in directing. The actor-turned-screen writer had performed in every one of the play's Los Angeles showings — and most of those when it premiered in New York, too — but chose to step out of the limelight for this project.

Filming took place over a one-month period during the summer in Los Angeles.

"During this process, I came to discover that I really enjoyed being the conductor, rather than being the actor," Fogel said. "What's been amazing about directing is that all the creative decisions are yours. For me, it became a way to morph the film creatively."

Satisfied with his directing debut, Fogel said that he's looking into taking another one of his screenplays and directing it in the future.

The film would be a "comedy along the lines of 'The Big Lebowski' meets 'There's Something About Mary'," he said.

However, for now, Fogel is just looking forward to the "Jewtopia" world premier at Edwards Big Newport's upscale 1,200-sear theater and the red carpet walk with his star-studded cast.

"I'm just thrilled about how it all turned out and that the Newport Beach Film Festival selected us," he said. "I'm feeling really excited about it."


Twitter: @speters01

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World