Published by The Oklahoma – Read original article here.
Originally published on July 19, 2015
Salesman’s son looks for truth in BIG FISH at Oklahoma City’s Lyric Theatre
When it comes to discovering truths about the past, it’s sometimes impossible to separate fact from fiction. Is a story we encounter actually true or is it a tale that just appears to be true because we’ve heard it repeated so many times?
That’s the premise behind “Big Fish,” a new musical based on the 2003 screenplay by John August and the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace. Featuring music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, this musical fantasy comes to the Civic Center Music Hall stage this week in a new production presented by Lyric Theatre.
Producing artistic director Michael Baron will helm this Lyric production, one headed by David Elder as Edward Bloom and Russell McCook as his son Will. The cast also includes Emily Skinner as Bloom’s wife, Sandra, Greg White as Karl, Eleasha Gamble as the Witch and George Schroeder as Young Will.
“Big Fish” explores the relationship between Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman, and his adult son Will, a journalist and soon-to-be father who searches for the truth behind his father’s outlandish tales.
As a young man, Edward Bloom encountered a giant, a witch, a mermaid and a carnival worker. Those experiences prompt him to spin elaborate yarns, all of which are intended to inspire a sense of adventure in his young son’s life.
“Edward has a lot of guilt that comes from not being home while his son was growing up, and Will resents that a lot,” said Elder, who has appeared in the Broadway productions of “Damn Yankees,” “Titanic,” “42nd Street” and “Curtains.”
“My character is disappointed that he hasn’t been able to find a way to get his son to understand who he is. Unfortunately, he puts up a wall instead of encouraging his son to find some joy in life. He just wants Will to discover things on his own – to let that lightbulb go off.”
You could say it’s the old story of art imitating life. As a child growing up in Houston, Elder shared a similar relationship with his father. There was little communication between father and son, and neither shared anything personal.
Some would say Will is just as guilty as his father when it comes to the challenges of establishing a healthy relationship. In “Big Fish,” Will is a journalist who deals with facts, not the wild stories he grew up hearing from his father.
“I’m struggling with how to make Will a character people can relate to,” said McCook, a 2015 Oklahoma City University graduate. “I just wish he had a better relationship with his dad. That’s difficult because they’re on such different spectrums.”
Appearing as Young Will when the story shifts into flashback sequences is George Schroeder, 14, a local actor who has already amassed an impressive theatrical resume. His credits include roles in “Les Miserables,” “The Secret Garden” and “Shrek, Jr.”
“This is definitely a new kind of role for me,” Schroeder said. “In Act I, Young Will kind of gets hooked on his dad’s stories, but in Act II, he’s starting to push his dad away. Because of hearing all these crazy stories, he can’t get any real information out of his dad. He gets to the point where he just wants to hear real facts.”
McCook hopes that taking the journey with the cast of “Big Fish” will prompt audiences to examine familial relationships in their own lives. Good theater often functions as a mirror that reveals hidden truths.
“This is a classic tale about a son who rebels against everything he was taught,” McCook said. “But it’s still a very moving story. I hope that when people see it, they’ll take a moment to treasure relationships with their parents and their children.”