Dexter’s Encore Theatre has a history of beautifully fitting large, epic musicals such as Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Fiddler on the Roof into its small, intimate space. While Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish, which opened on April 26th, is smaller than some shows Encore has produced, it maintains a visual grandeur that bigger shows achieve. The charming musical flows between two epochs, and indeed two worlds: the larger-than-life realm of traveling salesman Edward Bloom and his fantastical, grandiose tales; and the more introspective sphere of his son Will, who tries to figure out the meaning of his father’s stories as he himself hovers on the cusp of fatherhood. Current spoke with Thalia Schramm, director of the production.
Why did Encore decide to produce this show? We absolutely love the score and think the small, intimate nature of our space will lend well to this beautiful story.
Big Fish was adapted from Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel and Tim Burton’s movie, both of the same name, but hasn’t achieved as much widespread success as its progenitors. What, if any, challenges does that pose? The challenge with doing a small musical is people tend not to want to take a chance on a show they don’t know. I can tell you I cried and laughed in just the casual table-read, so give it a chance! The movie has a cult following, and it’s been one of my favorite movies since it came out when I was in high school.
There are two versions of the show; the one you’re doing is a consolidated version called the “12 chair version,” while the other has a larger cast. Did you pick the smaller version because of the intimate nature of the Encore, or for other reasons as well? I chose the 12-chair version of the show because it fits our theatre better. It’s a smaller cast, the orchestration is smaller and has a bit more of a country feel (a guitar player also doubles on the mandolin and banjo), and the story is changed a bit to focus more on the central father-son storyline. You still have fantastical elements, but it’s a much more relationship-based story in this version.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of doing a show that is at once intimate and humble, and also a sweeping, epic fairytale? The challenge is making a traditionally huge show feel natural in our small space. I have an extremely talented cast, and our mostly-female production team is insanely creative (Leah Fox is music-directing and Rachel Costantino is choreographing). We’ve only just started the rehearsal process, and I can’t wait to see where we go!
$24 and up, Thursday-Sunday, through May 20.
7:30pm, Thursday – Saturday evenings; 2:00pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees. 3126 Broad St., Dexter MI. 734-268-6200, theencoretheatre.org