By Margaret Zheng
Children crave stories and indulge in anything magical or mysterious, from Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy to the tales of Mother Goose and cultural equivalents of the above. But what happens when they grow up?
Edward Bloom is a storyteller. He’s a character in Big Fish, a modern musical, based on a novel and movie by the same title, that North’s Sock ‘n’ Buskin theater group is preparing to produce. In the show, Edward’s passion and pastime is to recount fantastical, clearly exaggerated tales of his “heroic” youth, which by his accounts involved encounters with a witch, a mermaid, a giant, and plenty more.
But young children, once avid listeners to tales, often become critical of such far-fetched fiction. William Bloom, Edward’s adult son, no longer wants to hear the imaginative version of Edward’s life. He is frustrated that despite having thirty years with him, his father is still a “stranger” whom he knows only by his incredible tales, which, Will maintains, cannot depict the true Edward.
Thus the plot of Big Fish is set in motion, though I have certainly squeezed out the sweetest and tangiest elements of the exposition and omitted enough of the emotional nuances for this story to sound a bit corny. The show’s just too “big” to be summarized. Which is why you, reader, must see it.
Behind the scenes, the cast and the pit orchestra (the crew hasn’t banded yet) have toiled over lines and songs, the cast having rehearsed since January, in preparation for the show’s opening on April 28. “We’re almost there,” says Riley Kantner, an actor playing multiple roles, “and I know it will be really good.”
James Hakowski, who will perform as Edward, relates to the story, despite the uniqueness of the portrayed father-son relationship. He reflects, “I think it’s something you can understand between a son and a father, and I think it’s beautiful.”
Concerning rehearsals, which can be up to six times a week for lead roles like his, James says, “It’s a wonderful experience when we get something well done.”
As keyboardist in the pit, I must agree with James’s assessment: though the music is challenging, and my part is especially complex, when after enduring strenuous repetition a piece tastes a bit of perfection, all the pit rejoices, excited to seize the whole pie – or as much of πr2 as it can – by show time.
And this show involves much work and many people. Big Fish demands the largest cast a Sock ‘n’ Buskin musical has needed in years (more than 35 actors, whereas last year’s Songs for a New World called for only 12, and Into the Woods of 2014 only 15). The pit is also large, including keyboards, strings, winds, and all sorts of percussion. One song even calls for the clinking of “glasses”. And with the grandness and complexity of the envisioned set, the crew will need many hardworking heads and hands as well.
To Sandy Chantry, seasoned director of Sock ‘n’ Buskin’s shows, Big Fish is “a big deal” because North is the first high school in the area to perform it. “It’s funny, but also really moving,” she comments on the show. Mrs. Chantry is confident that people will enjoy this “dramedy” – a satisfying combination of the serious and sentimental with the quirky and comedic.
There’s nothing fishy about it: Big Fish is a big show. Its fantasy mesmerizes the young-at-heart, and its psychological aspect takes us all to a better understanding of our own lives. Stories of the whim and tales of the self are not to be abandoned, at any age.
So come to one of the performances here at CR North, on April 28, 29, and 30 at 7:30 p.m., and on May 1 at 2:00 p.m. Support the arts in our school, and continue the narrative fabric of the ages.
For stories are what tie separate lives together, aren’t they?