Edward Bloom, a teller of tall tales (“big fish” stories), tries to reconcile with his skeptical son from his deathbed: It may not sound like a promising premise for a Broadway musical. But with a little stage magic and a lot of dancing, director and choreographer Susan Stroman is able to bring Edward’s stories to vibrant life onstage in Big Fish. The Broadway adaptation of the 2003 film opens October 6 at the Neil Simon Theatre in NYC. Stroman talked to DS about what makes Big Fish worth seeing.
Big Fish on Broadway (by Paul Kolnik)
It’s a story full of great stories.
“All of us ended up in theater because someone told us big-fish stories when we were growing up,” Stroman says. “Those stories inspired us to tell our own stories. But this musical isn’t just about the fantastical elements—it also has a lot of heart.”
The special effects are awesome.
“It’s this great combination of old-world stagecraft and new technology,” Stroman says. “There are solid props made out of wood—and then a digital projection will transform that wood into something else. It’s almost a metaphor for the larger story: Something real becomes something fantastical.”
Pretty much every kind of dance imaginable is involved…
“Each of Edward’s stories has a different type of dance that goes with it,” Stroman says. “There’s a big USO number with tap dance, and then there’s a ballet piece where the dancers represent fire and air, and then there’s a good old Alabama stomp, because the show takes place in Alabama. Usually a musical just uses one dance form—it’s all tap or all jazz. But this particular story opens up ways to incorporate many styles.”
…and the dancers are top-notch.
“I have some of the best dancers on Broadway,” Stroman says. “Sarrah Strimel, Lara Seibert, Bryn Dowling, Angie Schworer—these people are very accomplished and well respected. There’s always joy when they’re onstage. I think dance fans will have fun seeing them take on different roles and styles. There are a lot of lovely surprises in store.”
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.