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Originally published on July 24, 2015

BIG FISH is getting away at Lyric

We forget, we adults, that storytelling is how all humans negotiate the world. We like to believe that there are “stories” for children and “reality” for adults. But our reality is made up of stories, and when we know we are telling them, we are free to make reality what we choose.

“Big Fish” is a story about stories and the stories of the people who tell stories. It’s about father-son angst; it’s about the conflict between fantasy and fact with each heavily embellished; it’s about being human and humane in the face of circumstances.

Director Michael Baron and his team offer a totally “made in Oklahoma” production of the acclaimed Broadway show. Some of the set elements were made by hand by parents of children who study at the Lyric Academy. Everyone in the cast has either been trained in Oklahoma, is from Oklahoma, or has worked in Oklahoma before this show.

The man who tells tall tales to his pragmatic son finds it hard to build the relationship he wants. The son who insists on practical realism over lived experience finds it difficult to understand his father’s life.

But the stories! The tale of finding the witch in the swamp, of meeting the giant in the woods, of catching the big fish who is actually a mermaid: his stories are the doorway to the father’s heart and life. And in the end, the biggest story remains untold, until his son finds a way to tell it.

David Elder as the father, Edward or Eddie Bloom, carries the show and does so with down-to-earth brilliance. Russell McCook as his son Will Bloom offers the perfect foil in his grounded and beautifully played resistance. Emily Skinner as Eddie’s wife Sandra does a lovely job, singing and dancing through the stories and remaining the stable presence in the “here and now” parts of the production. Will’s wife Josephene (Rachael Barry) helps her husband finally cross the rift between himself and his father; Barry played Josephene with grace and skill.

Additional strong players in the stories are Greg White as the Karl the giant and investment banker, Chad Anderson as Amos the ringmaster and real estate mogul, and Eleasha Gamble as the witch-who is always a clairvoyant. Jennifer Teel as Eddie’s high-school sweetheart Jenny Hill is believable as both 18 and 50, and Isaiah Bailey as the high school friend and nemesis is also a strong presence. Everyone is supported by Lyric Theatre’s usual strong ensemble.

Baron’s direction is carefully and cleverly balanced. The fantastic elements of the stories are countered by the almost mundane staging of the “present” home life. Much of the technical magic is invisible, which is the highest goal of technical theatre, and therefore all the more enchanting.

“Big Fish” was developed from the screenplay by John August, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace. The music and lyrics are by Andrew Lippa, with book by John August. Lyric’s production runs at the Civic Center Music Hall through Saturday evening, July 25, with an 8:00 curtain Friday and Saturday, and a 2:00 Saturday matinee. Call the box office at (405) 524-9312 or buy tickets online through Lyric’s website at