Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Based on both the Tim Burton movie and the Broadway show, “Big Fish” is the upcoming production of City of Fairfax Theatre Co. (CFTC). Featuring a cast and crew of 60, it’ll be presented at Katherine Johnson Middle School, 3801 Jermantown Road in Fairfax City.
“A father is telling his son about his life through larger-than-life stories, as the son goes from age 10 until his 30s, when he’s an expectant father, himself,” said Director Amanda Snellings. “The dad, Edward Bloom, was a traveling salesman; and as he becomes very ill, son Will tries to find out which of his dad’s stories were real.”
For example, she said, “Edward said he was friends with a giant, met a witch who told him how he was going to die, and worked for a circus run by a werewolf. And throughout this musical, we see those stories come to life via flashbacks. But there are also current-day scenes as father and son struggle to reconnect before the father passes.”
Show times are Friday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 22, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 23, at 3 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, July 27-28, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, July 29, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, adults; $15, children 12 and under; at fairfaxcitytheatre.org. Prices are the same at the door, while seats are available.
“The play has heartfelt, dramatic and emotional moments of the family coming to terms with the end of Edward’s life,” said Snellings. “But since it’s a dramedy, we also see exciting and spectacular visions of Edward’s life stories, from teenager to present day. Edward’s life is full-on comedy, with big, fun, musical numbers and colorful characters.”
Describing the cast’s acting as “really wonderful and incredible,” Snellings said the audience will also love the “fantastic choreography, music and singing. The cast really clicked into the emotional depth and arc of these characters. And the ensemble members portray everything from townspeople to WWII USO dancers, circus performers and witches.
“We have a really exciting set and projections, plus tons of colorful costumes and lighting effects. The projections bring to life the fantasy scenes, and the set pieces will move to illustrate various locations. This is my fourth year directing CFTC, and every year, I appreciate more and more the opportunity to tell these stories and work with so many members of the community.”
Fairfax’s Peter Marsh plays Edward. “We see Edward from his son’s and wife Sandra’s points of view, and then the real Edward from his point of view,” said Marsh. “Will’s is like a child remembers their parent and the sum of the stories he’s been told. Sandra’s is more romantic, and the real Edward is a 50-plus-year-old-man with all the frustrations of that age and more grounded in reality.
“But he’s still fanciful and has a vivid imagination – which is central to his relationship with Will. His stories always have a kernel of truth in them, but his imagination takes them to mythic proportions. Edward’s also fiercely loyal and creative, and his story arc is built on the idea of reconciliation with the most important people in his life.”
Marsh said he’s wanted to play this part since he portrayed another character in it, five years ago. “Since then, some people close to me have died, so it gives me a different perspective on the whole story and Edward and what I want to bring to this role,” he explained. “I have a deeper understanding of his character.”
As for this show, he said, “This cast’s talent level is off the charts and the choreography is outstanding. CFTC also has great talent behind the scenes. Many of these people are theater directors putting on their own shows, all year long, plus college students. So across the board, everyone’s so professional. It’s like watching a superhero team come together for Northern Virginia community theater.”
Portraying Will is Noah Mutterperl. “He’s book-smart, analytic and doesn’t have much patience for fantasy and make believe,” said Mutterperl. “Will’s a reporter, used to focusing on facts. He feels like he barely knows his father, who’s gone a lot. And when he’s around, he tells Will things that, as he grows up, he’s not sure he can believe.”
Mutterperl said playing Will is an “interesting challenge. This show has lots of cheerful production numbers, so Will’s a stick in the mud. But he’s also the everyman conduit for the audience because he’s the character most based in reality. Personally, I’d like to join in the singing and dancing; although there are some emotional moments that I’m glad I get to portray. Will learns family is more important than the stories we tell, and that his dad was a good man. He also learns to appreciate what he has and to look for those moments of fantasy.”
“This is a really beautiful story that’ll take the audience to the highest of highs and lowest of lows,” continued Mutterperl. “I hope they’ll laugh, cry and want to dance along, too. It’s definitely a full spectrum of emotions. They’ll love the huge fantasy numbers filled with joy, happiness and magic, but also other elements that feel very real.”
Springfield’s Andy Shaw, a theater director at Chantilly High, plays the owner/operator of the Calloway Circus. “He’s always looking for ways to take advantage of other people to get what he wants for his own success,” said Shaw. “He’s an unscrupulous and secretive person who uses the information he has against other people. But he’s also outgoing and can be likeable and enjoyable.”
Calling his role “lots of fun,” Shaw said, “I get to sing a big song, ‘Closer to Her,’ with the other characters in the circus as they’re figuring out what they’re all about. Meanwhile, Amos is trying to get Edward to perform for free because he knows the person in the circus that Edward likes.”
Shaw said the audience will be amazed by “the breadth of things happening onstage – ranging from crazy, over-the-top, production numbers to heartfelt, intimate, small songs and scenes. And there are universal elements of the story about parents and children that will remind people of their own experiences with them.”
Portraying Edward’s wife is Maura Lacy. “Sandra’s a Southern woman with sweet, Southern charm but a backbone of steel,” said Lacy. “She holds the family together and grounds Edward back into reality, because he’s in the clouds and living in fantasy. She’s also super-friendly and a devoted wife and mom who has a solid relationship with her son.”
Loving her role, Lacy said, “It lets people see Sandra at different ages and multiple phases in her life – from young and bubbly through becoming a wife and mother. You watch her taking on more responsibility and, later, grappling with some really, emotional moments, walking through her husband’s pending death.”
Lacy has two favorite songs in this show. One, “Little Lamb from Alabama,” is sung by the young, exuberant Sandra. The other, “I Don’t Need a Roof,” is sung by Sandra to Edward toward the end of his life. “It shows her vulnerability and love for him and has some really raw moments,” said Lacy. Overall, she said audiences will “love this musical’s fantasy and whimsy, as well as the emotional connections you find in any family drama. They should bring tissues.”