Reeling In a Masterpiece: Broadway's Sunken Gem, Big Fish

afadsfas.jpg

Taylor Lockhart

(make sure to read till the very end for news on upcoming productions of this show and a very special upcoming production of Disney’s Newsies)

 Alright, Listen...or um, read up? I guess. Anyways, I have something to tell you that is going to be the most important thing you’ve heard all day. I mean unless of course you learn Newsies is finally coming to the West End or is out on DVD which then I guess not, but the odds of that are, like, 0 to none. So, this is guaranteed to be the important thing you hear all day.

Big Fish is one of the BEST musicals ever made.

Oh, you disagree I see, in fact you wouldn’t even put it in your top 10? Oh, you don’t even know what this show is? Well let me tell you It is a heart wrenching heartwarming make your momma-make your daddy- make the strongest of the strong men cry type of musical. Big fish is your ticket to tissue-town and beyond, Big Fish is the definition of a waterworks musical that puts shows like Big River to shame! Big Fish is- you know enough of the Urinetown level dramatics, let’s just get into the plot synopsis

The Plot!

 Spoiler Alert! (duh) If you have the chance to see Big Fish locally anytime in the next month or two or three click away from this article right now...wait! Wait! WAIT!  but make sure to come back and finish it please, because this is a story you need to go into blind to really and truly appreciate it, ok you can leave now. Everyone else here either already seen it, been in a production, watched a bootleg (shame on you), or are in fact either Andrew Lippa or John August, great! Lets begin.

Big Fish is the story of Edward Bloom and his son Will, who is about to be married and unbeknownst to anyone else is about to become a father as well. Will and his father have never been extremely close because for most of his life Edward was away as a traveling salesman and when they were together he told fantastical stories of wars he couldn’t have actually fought in, of giants and werewolves, the time he caught a fish using only the Alabama Stomp and a witch who apparently showed him how he would die. In every one of these stories Edward made himself out to be a brave and noble hero who everyone loved and always saved the day. On his wedding day though, Will tells Edward not to tell any of these stories and, after Edward is somehow able to find out about his wife’s pregnancy, not to tell anyone because he feels it’s too early and a thousand things could go wrong. Edward of course doesn’t respect his sons desires and makes a toast in which he reveals he has decided to become a grandfather believing his son is keeping this good news away from the world because of crazy superstitions. Will furious storms off because his father once again didn’t listen to him and was selfish. Later on, Will learns that his father and mother have been keeping a secret from him and that Edward is in terminal stages of cancer with only months left to live. Will decides he has to try to sort out the fact from the fiction and figure out who his father really was before it’s too late. He puts the tales together in chronological order to find a story of a boy who was a big time star in his town of Ashton but then left in order to find bigger roads and ended finding love one day at a circus and trying to find the girl he’d fell in love with by working for clues about who she is every month at the circus until he was finally able to reunite with her and propose by offering her a million of her favorite flowers. Will then finds a red folder containing a deed for a town in Ashton that his father bought with a girl named Jenny Hill, his old girlfriend in Ashton. Will confronts his father about the deed only for him to be unwilling to talk about it and lead Edward to have a dream about Will attacking him in the wild west and attempting to have him hung for his crimes. His father unwilling to tell him, Will sets out to find Jenny Hill and ask her herself in which she reveals the one story Edward never told him and the most heroic one of all. Back many years ago Ashton was about to be flooded and Edward raised money and acquired land from the old ringmaster he worked for and the now extremely successful giant he helped to get over his differences and leave his cave so many years ago. He saves the town but Jenny refuses to go with the other townspeople wanting rather to drown because she has never been whole since Edward left Ashton and after promising to come back never did. Edward suggests the two of them start over and buys her a house away from the now flooded town of Ashton. Jenny kisses Edward after getting to the house and Edward though perhaps a bit reluctant at first, tells her, that he loves his wife and refuses to take place in an affair. Will finally knowing the truth and that his father never did actually cheat on his mother, prepares to leave and talk to his father when he learns over the phone that his father is in critical condition in the hospital. Will arrives at the hospital to find his dad in a comatose state and not sure if he can hear him or not, tells his dad he finally understands it all, that all this time he thought he was trying to impress him when in reality, he was trying to inspire him. That through his stories, he showed Will a world of adventure outside Alabama he never got to see himself. Edward briefly wakes up and asks Will to tell him to final story the witch told him about how he was going to die. Will panicked because Edward never told him that one makes up a story about how they escape the hospital, drive down to the river, and that every single one of his friends and family is there to see him go off into the water. In reality it’s just Edward and Will in a hospital room, the two of them finally having bridged the gap that had existed between them for years and amending their relationship, right before Edward Bloom flat lines and passes away. Later on, many years after Edward’s death, Will and his son are off fishing as he tells his son the lesson his father taught him, to be the hero of your story every time you get the chance, and that with a story in your heart you the world will always be yours.

Ok, now that plot synopsis doesn’t do it justice. The soundtrack is on YouTube. Go listen to it with that plot in mind and tell me you don’t get a bit teary eyed. For sure the strongest aspect in Big Fish is its story. It’s the reason it’s one of my favorite musicals and I think one of the best musicals. I simply have not seen a story like it before or ever since. Its gripping, moving, and incredibly satisfying when it comes full circle at the end and I only told you about half of what it is. You see, Edward’s stories aren’t told in monologues or one-off lines. Each story from the witch telling him how he would die to the USO show from when he fought in “The War” is a big extravagant show stopping number and I mean that. The song The Witch absolutely stops the show. Seriously it’s on YouTube go listen to it the vocals are amazing! Anyways, it’s hard to explain if you have not seen the show but to me the thing is musicals are very often hard to be realistic as a medium in general and I think what’s so cool about Big Fish is that in a show featuring stories of werewolves, giants, mermaids, and such, when you look deeper than that, it really is a very realistic story with a relatable messages about family. In a way as you may see, Big Fish as a show completely mirrors its plot and its morals of looking below the surface to understand something. The show in a way is just like its protagonist Edward Bloom, something small done in a very big way. It is for this reason that I honestly don’t know if anyone can or will create a story more meaningful than Big Fish. The amount of love and care that went into the adaption of this movie turned musical is astounding and it’s an absolute shame it was so snuffed at the Tony Awards. I want you to keep in mind the plot you just read lost Best Book to Matilda. Crazy, I know.

However, the story isn’t the only thing great about Big Fish because you may know the story already existed in the 2003, Tim Burton movie of the same name. The music is also spot on! Unlike some other country/bluegrass musicals where the music can kind of blend together as the same thing, Big Fish is the perfect mix of Broadway and country that leads to even the somewhat meaningless songs like “Little Lamb From Alabama” stuck in my head, even though it’s been 2 years since I first saw the musical. Shim, Sham who’s your little lamb from Alabama, hot damn who’s you little-Sorry got distracted. But seriously songs like “Be The Hero” and “The Witch” are some pretty big bangers (A banger for those who don’t know is just a really good and catchy song, It doesn’t actually matter in my opinion if you can head bang to it.) and I would say on a scale of 0-10, 0 being a banger like “Rain in Spain” from My Fair Lady to 10 being a banger like “Once and For All” from Newsies, “Be The Hero” gets a sold 8 from me. Overall, the music is pretty catchy and enjoyable and you should go listen to it for yourself because the complete soundtrack is on YouTube!

Fun Fact: On the topic of music, there is a song in Big Fish called :Fight The Dragons” that Edward sings to Young Will in the beginning of Act 2 which, when you realize “Fight the Dragons” is sometimes used as a way to describe someone fighting cancer, makes me love and hate Andrew Lippa just a bit more for breaking my heart so ruthlessly, but also his intense attention to detail. 

Overall, maybe you don’t agree with me. Maybe you’re the one person on earth who thinks Annie 2: Hannigan's Revenge is the best musical ever made which in that case you’re sick and need urgent help, but for the rest of you I hope I got you to be just a bit more curious about this sadly kind of unknown and underrated gem. Seriously, if you have the chance to see Big Fish anywhere near you please do. I honestly love this musical and wish everybody would at least get the chance to see it and fall in love with it like I have. Maybe It’s an over exaggeration to say it’s one of the best musicals ever made, but in my opinion,  it absolutely is and deserves where its ranking.

So that’s Big Fish you may have noticed if you read my last article that the show was actually at the International Thespian Festival, an event I just got back from attending. I had the utmost pleasure of getting to be a part of a production of Disney’s Newsies that was shown on Tuesday and while I thought about writing about that. I can honestly say I’m kind of on a break with Newsies at least until July (more on that below) so I just shoved it in this one a bunch, it’s really kind of like two articles in one. But I just wanted to let you guys know I had a ton of fun at festival. I met lots of new friends, lost my badge a few times, met the cast of just about every main stage show except Trap (I tried, I couldn’t find them anywhere), bought about 60$ worth of plays and all kinds of other fun stuff! Really though, I had the time of my life and I do encourage you if you get the chance to go to the festival in 2019. You will not regret it.

agbtbg.jpg

Anyways, thank you for reading and….. Drum roll please, returning for the first time since my first article ever on Oklahoma! It’s the upcoming list! I figured since I went on and on about how you should see Big Fish I would let you know about a few places where it’s going on. I really hope if your near one of these you’ll take the time out of your day to attend it and see what all my fuss was about, and I will see you people in my next article which will probably be sometime in August. Until then, goodbye!

Upcoming Productions

 June 30, 2018 to August 6, 2018

Fort Totten Little Theatre, Fort Totten, ND

http://www.forttottenlittletheatre.com/

July 13, 2018 to July 21, 2018

Maple Shade Arts Council, Maple Shade, NJ

http://msartscouncil.org/

July 13, 2018 to July 29, 2018

Orlando Repertory Theatre Youth Academy, Orlando, FL

https://orlandorep.secure.force.com/ticket

July 14, 2018 to July 16, 2018

Singers Performers Actors Repertory Ensemble (SPARE), Vestal, NY

http://www.spareproductions.org/

July 17, 2018 to July 22, 2018

Gooseberry Park Players, West Fargo, ND

http://www.gooseberryparkplayers.org/index.html

July 18, 2018 to July 29, 2018

Theatre Raleigh, Raleigh, NC

http://www.theatreraleigh.com/

July 25, 2018 to July 26, 2018

Pitman Recreational Theatre, Mullica Hill, NJ

https://www.facebook.com/PitmanRecSummerTheaterCamp/

 

August 9, 2018 to August 12, 2018

Gaylord Community Productions Inc, Gaylord, MI

http://gaylordcommunityproductions.com/

 

August 17, 2018 to August 19, 2018

The Young Company at Greater Boston Stage, Stoneham, MA

http://www.greaterbostonstage.org/the-young-company.html

 

 And also, as I mentioned I wanted to plug a company about to do Newsies! Now, I know what your saying isn’t there a theatre company doing Newsies everywhere for the next two years and well, you right. But, this particular high school group won a competition known as the Seize The Day Challenge in which participants would go out and do good in their community and submit a video of that for the chance to win the first amateur rights to do a production of the show... and now July 20-22nd, if you live in Northern Indiana make sure you see it! I am going to be driving 4 hours to see this production and I am positive it is going to be worth it. If you get the chance, make sure to see Disney’s Newsies at Premier Arts! Tickets available here so make sure to buy yours before they sell out https://www.premierarts.org/?portfolio=newsies