THE WORLD can't get enough of Edward Bloom.
We first met the traveling salesman with big dreams in 1998 via Daniel Wallace’s novel Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions. In 2003, Ewan MacGregor brought him to life in Tim Burton’s delightful film adaptation, Big Fish, alongside Helena Bonham Carter and Danny DeVito.
Savannah Children’s Theatre Artistic Director Kelie Miley was an immediate fan of the film, and when a family visit to New York happened to coincide with the Broadway production, she knew she had to see it.
Ah, but with family comes compromise, sacrifice, and a whole lotta understanding. Miley’s sightseeing selection may have been outvoted on their vacation, but when the rights to the musical became available, she pounced on the opportunity to produce it at Savannah Children’s Theatre.
“The musical is beautifully written,” she says. “It’s a very emotional type of journey—in a really sweet way, not in a wear-you-out type way.”
The story opens with an elder Edward Bloom and his son, Will, who is about to get married. As Will asks his father to not make a toast at his wedding and refrain from telling any of his notoriously wild stories, the audience is swept away on a whirlwind adventure that weaves through time and the depths of the imagination.
“It’s memories,” Miley explains. “It’s not completely always linear. You’re jumping back to places in time. Edward is an embellisher of stories; he brings in the fantasy element, but there’s a bit of truth.”
Edward’s knack for embellishment and the desire to entertain with his tall tales has always driven a wedge between him and his son. As the audience meets figures from Edward’s past—including a witch, circus freaks, a werewolf, and a masked sniper—a soaring soundtrack explores the complications and depths of the father-son relationship.
“The son comes to a more mature understanding of who is father was to him—not just the buffoon he thought he was,” says Miley.
It’s a great message for not only the audience, but also for the cast, which boasts actors ranging in age from seven to sixty.
“Everybody’s experience—no matter if you have the most wonderful relationship with your family or the most dysfunctional—everybody has had to work through understanding people you’re around,” Miley observes. “You’re not immediately going to understand everybody. Part of maturing and the parent-child relationship is a lot of people think they get smarter the older they get; that’s the old joke. This helps you see that.”
Attendees may want to bring some tissues with them; Miley says that the cast has been so moved by the play, rehearsals have ended with some tears.
“It’s very thoughtfully and empathetically done,” she notes.
Folks of all ages are encouraged to take in the show.
“You’ll be delightfully surprised if you do,” says Miley.