“Big Fish” is making a new splash — on Broadway.
Fifteen years ago, Daniel Wallace published his first novel, “Big Fish,” and 10 years ago, the Tim Burton version of the movie by the same title came out. This month the musical, also “Big Fish,” premiered on Broadway.
“I started writing about my father, stories that are drawn from the man my father was, and I mixed it up with the other thing that I was interested in, which is Greek myths,” Wallace said.
Wallace is currently a UNC professor and the director of the creative writing program, and he has written several books since “Big Fish.”
Like the movie and the novel, the musical tells the story of Edward Bloom, a man from a small town in Alabama with a knack for storytelling. The story is one of reconciliation between the dying father, Edward, and his son, Will.
Wallace said the same people who worked on and wrote the musical also worked on and wrote the movie.
“I thought it was a thing that would never, ever happen, so I never took it seriously,” Wallace said.
“The fact that it happened still, it’s stunning to me.”
Jeff Whiting, the associate director of the musical, said he loved the novel and read it after he saw the movie.
“The story is really a beautiful story, and Daniel Wallace’s book brings such a great story to life, and to turn it into a musical was really an easy thing because it’s such an emotional story,” he said.
He said that a lot of thought and trial and error were put into the timing of the scenes and the transitions between fantasy and reality.
Kate Baldwin is the actress who plays Edward’s wife, Sandra Bloom.
“He has real stuff that has happened to him, and he likes to exaggerate these events and tell them as fantastical stories in his life to his wife, Sandra Bloom, and his son, Will Bloom,” Baldwin said.
While Sandra loves this about Edward, Will does not. He wants the facts behind the story, not the exaggeration and fantasy.
Baldwin said the story is told through combinations of flashbacks to Edward’s past and to the present day. In the present, Will is expecting the birth of his son and Edward receives a diagnosis that he will not live as long as he thought.
Baldwin said not only does she use costumes and wigs to show Sandra at different ages, she also changes the way she walks and talks.
“We see Sandra as a 17-year-old auditioning for the circus through, I think the last scene is when I’m 65, but I spend the majority of the play hovering around my mid-50s and my early 30s,” she said.
“It’s a real acting challenge and one I look forward to every night.”
She said the set is a barn-like set made from wood and movie projections are put over it to change the settings for the different scenes.
Whiting said they have many fantastical pieces on stage including elephants, mermaids and — of course — big fish.
“There’s a lot of wonderful eye candy to see, so this musical offers so many wonderful things for audiences to see, and it’s got a beautiful story at the core of it,” he said.
The musical does its best to stay faithful to the book. Both Whiting and Baldwin have read the book and enjoyed it.
Wallace said he has seen the musical four times and will see it again, and he loves it.
“The musical is drawn from the movie and the book,” he said.
“There are ways that the musical is closer to the book than the movie was and part of that is because in the book there is a lot of Greek myth, and in the musical there’s Greek myth, so in the movie there really wasn’t any.”
He is glad for both productions and said that he believes that they have presented his story in the best way possible through that particular medium.
“There’s no better advertisement for a book than productions like a movie and a musical, and at the end of the day, my goal is to have more people read my book.”
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