Big Fish Swims to Robinhood Lane
Community Players’ first musical of the new decade will be Big Fish, a charming and touching story of a father and son striving to understand each other.
With music and lyrics by Andrew (The Addams Family) Lippa and book by John August, Big Fish focuses on Edward Bloom, an Alabama-born traveling salesman with a penchant for tall tales, and his more literal and level-headed son Will. While flashbacks dramatize Edward’s many stories of his past, including meeting a witch, traveling with a giant, joining a circus, being a war hero, and winning the love of his life, Sandra, in a field of daffodils, in the present Will tries to find the truth behind the exaggerations so as to truly understand his father before he dies.
Big Fish is based on a 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace and the 2003 film directed by Tim Burton and featuring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, and Jessica Lange. The musical opened at the Neil Simon theater on Broadway on October 6, 2013, after a tryout in Chicago. It was directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (of The Producers fame) and starred Norbert Leo Butz as Edward, Bobby Steggert as Will, and Kate Baldwin as Sandra. Despite excellent performances, Stroman’s exciting choreography, and an innovative use of projections to bring Edward’s stories to life, the show received mostly mixed reviews and closed after only 98 performances. Nonetheless, Big Fish has had a strong life post-Broadway, with productions around the country and major productions in Australia and London. For the London production, which starred Kelsey Grammer, the show was reworked so that the characters of Edward and Sandra were each portrayed by two actors, one for the scenes in the present, one for the flashbacks.
Our production features a musically talented cast, with Samuel James Willis as the elder Edward Bloom and Zach Mitchell as Edward’s younger self. The two have marvelous voices which are featured in several of the musical numbers. They are joined by Natasha Warloe as Edward’s wife, Sandra, whose younger version is portrayed by Missy Freese. Edward’s son, Will, is portrayed as an adult by Adam Schofield and Will’s younger version is played by Simmey Cedeno. Edward’s high school sweetheart, Jenny Hill, is played by Jessica Dolan. The adult version of Jenny is played by Emily Ohmart. Will’s wife, Josephine, is played by Lauren Hickle.
Other characters involved in Edward’s stories include the giant, Karl, played by Rich Lau; the circus ringmaster, Amos, played by Alexander Knightwright; the local witch, played by Kinsey Poetter; Edward’s high school nemesis, Don Price, played by Brian Yager; and Don’s brother, Zacky, played by Ben Fetters. Edward’s physician, Dr. Bennett, is played by Nick Benson.
Big Fish has a large, busy and energetic ensemble which includes Maddy Blanch, Braden Cummins, Julie Dawson,Will Dawson, Rosie Hauck, Mason Jones, Spencer Jones, Amanda Padgitt, Bailey Reiser, Morgan Rondinelli, Anna Sheltens, Peyton Tongate, and Nick Wolf. In addition, a couple of staff members show up in a few of the larger production numbers.
Scott Myers is director with assistance from Eli Mundy. Ashleigh Feger is producer with assistance from Stephanie Duquenne. Jennifer Shaw is music director and Jason Cook is music operator. In addition to his duties as assistant director, Eli Mundy is also sound engineer. He is getting assistance doing sound from Sydney Driskell.
Dan Virtue is lighting designer and Jennifer Bethmann is properties master. Opal Virtue is in charge of costumes. Judy Stroh is stage manager and Barbara McKee is house manager. Kerry Anne Dixon is set designer. Kerry has been commuting from Iowa on the weekends to work with master builder Bruce Parrish. Gary Schwartz has done special work for properties and set.
Choreographer Jessa Hendricker has designed and polished some splendid dance numbers. The tap number “Red, White and True” at the opening of the second act is a special delight.
The pay-what-you-can Preview performance is Thursday, March 12 with regular performances March13-15, 20-22 and 27-29. Evening performances begin at 7:30 with Sunday matinees at 2:30. A fun story told by a talented cast, Big Fish promises to be a whale of a good time.
by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder
Photos by John Lieder