Susan Lawrence (Alana Pollard) listens to the adult Josh Baskin (Jake Bentley Young) in Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts’ production of “Big, the Musical.” Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Susan Lawrence (Alana Pollard) listens to the adult Josh Baskin (Jake Bentley Young) in Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts’ production of “Big, the Musical.” Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Young people often can’t wait to be an adult and do grown-up things like drive a car.

Adults sometimes yearn for the fun and innocence of their childhood.

In “Big, the Musical,” now at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts through July 24, 12-year-old Josh Baskin (Nate Friedberg) finds out what life as an adult is like after he makes a wish on a fortune teller machine and he wakes up the next morning as a 30-year-old man (Jake Bentley Young).

As an adult, Josh ends up working at a toy company and meeting Susan Lawrence (Alana Pollard), who recaptures some of her youthful joy through Josh.

For twentysomethings Young and Pollard, their careers in the performing arts started when they were children.

Young was born and raised in Sacramento, Calif. He grew up doing Shakespeare as a kid, and eventually got into musicals in high school and followed that path. He went to school near Austin, Texas, where he said he really grew artistically and otherwise.

“(I) started setting my sights on what I wanted to do. This was always a dream of a place to work. I wanted to work here for a very long time, and I got this job a year and a half ago or more, and, obviously, it got put on hold. So when they asked us to come back, I was like, ‘Let’s do it!’ I had been out of practice for a while, so it was a little intimidating. But, honestly, now that we’re sitting here and doing this (interview), I’m like, ‘Oh. It worked out,’” Young said.

Pollard is originally from Gainesville, Fla. She started dancing after her grandmother put her in ballet and jazz classes when she was 3 years old.

“So that was my start in the arts, and I fell in love with it. It was my safe place. It was a place where I could create and make friends,” she said.

When she went into high school, she started doing musical theater. Her first musical was “The Music Man,” which was the Wagon Wheel’s last show.

“I just took a liking to it immediately,” Pollard said. “I started competing in thespian festivals. Loved the thrill of being on stage, performing, telling the truth.”

She quickly figured out she didn’t want to be a chemist – she wanted to perform.

“I didn’t know you could go to college for it. So, my high school drama teacher came with me to Chicago Unifieds and we auditioned for 10 schools, and it was this whole crazy thing, and I was terrified, and luckily I got into my top school, the University of Michigan. And I just graduated there this past May,” she said.

Pollard first worked at the Wagon Wheel in 2018 in “Saturday Night Fever.”

Talking about his character Josh, Young said a lot of people saw the 1988 movie “Big” with Tom Hanks that the musical is based on.

“Josh is a 12-year-old turning 13 during the play, and kind of on the precipice of adulthood, not quite an adolescent, not quite a kid. That funky age where the stakes are so high, talking to people you like, with friends, everything feels like a life-or-death situation,” Young said. “He finds himself in one of those situations at a local carnival. I think that’s when it really hits the fan – he tries to talk to this girl, he gets rejected because this girl has a boyfriend who drives, which is, of course, detrimental and perilous to him. So he makes a wish on a magical carnival machine ... and wakes up the next morning for school in the body of a 30-year-old man.”

Over the course of the musical, Josh is forced to grow up immensely fast, “much in the way that we, as twentysomethings, are coming from college and going into the world. There’s a whole lot of financial responsibility, social responsibility,” he said.

By the end of the show, Josh realizes that adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and there’s a lot of virtue in keeping your youth, Young said.

He remembers being a kid himself and wishing to be an adult.

“Oh yeah, for sure. I think we all do. That’s the common thread of the show. I think that people who see the show will latch onto immediately the feeling of being a kid,” Young said.

Susan, Pollard said, is a businessperson “of the highest degree. I like to think of her as a very hard worker and has become so accustomed to the male-dominated environment in which she has chosen to be in because of the success, because of how good it feels to win. She doesn’t make all the best decisions as far as for her emotions and for her emotional happiness. But Josh reminds her of her own heart that has been literally blocked by just trying to be tough, focused and driven in a way that has been detrimental to her happiness.”

Susan meets Josh, who is a “wildly energetic” human being, and he reminds her of her childhood, Pollard said. Josh reminds Susan of taking dancing classes, her childhood sweetheart, of love and loving herself and being free.

“While we had some problems dissecting the nature of this show, we’ve realized that this fantasy is entirely innocent in that my character would do anything to go back in time. So, in this way, this relationship between them is so innocent and lively and good. But at the end – spoiler alert! – she doesn’t go back with him because her life has been changed by him and if she goes back, who knows what would happen,” Pollard said.

She said she loves the character of Susan because audiences see her change.

“I’m reminded by how, when we talked, is that these characters sort of meet in the middle – that Susan has kind of grew up too fast perhaps and Josh wants to grow up too fast, and they kind of take bits from each other, and she kind of recognizes the youth that she might have lost; he kind of recognizes the way he ... does have to grow up, and at the end, they’re kind of left with a piece of each other in that way. They kind of learn something about themselves,” Young said.

“Be present in your own life. Don’t wish for someone else’s life,” Pollard stated.

“The show is about what we actually live for and the people we live for, not the things that define us. Not the things we think we should be, the things we wish would have been at one point. It’s about being present,” Young said.

During the short amount of time to rehearse and put up the show, Young said he didn’t get a lot of time to study how Friedberg played the younger version of Josh.

“To an extent, for sure. It’s just such a high-volume show – there’s a lot of dancing, singing – you kind of have to split the difference. But the hardest part about the part in general, the character, is physicalizing a 13-year-old child, which is lively, unapologetic, not self-conscious,” Young said. “That’s the fun of doing this part in particular is the studying of it and jotting crazy notes down. How do I move? How am I fidgeting? And that helps you jump into the character physically.”

Tickets for the Wagon Wheel production of “Big” are available at the box office, by calling 574-267-8041 or 866-823-2618 or visiting the website at wagonwheelcenter.org.