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Big Fish

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Musical in 2 acts - music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa; book by John August; based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, and the 2003 film Big Fish.

Chicago’s Oriental Theatre - 2 April - 5 May, 2013
Neil Simon Theatre - 5 September (previews). 6 October - 29 December, 2013 (34 previews, 98 perfs) *

Synopsis

The story shifts between two timelines. In the present-day real world, sixty-year-old Edward Bloom faces his mortality while Will prepares to become a father himself. In the storybook past, Edward ages from a teenager, encountering a Witch, a Giant, a Mermaid, and the love of his life, Sandra. The stories meet as Will discovers the secret his father never revealed.

Story

Act 1

The curtain rises on present-day Edward Bloom, who is skipping rocks on the river. His son, Will, who is about to get married, comes to ask Edward not to tell any of his crazy stories at the wedding. Edward cannot understand why Will feels this way, entering a flashback to when Will was a child, and Edward told Will many wild and adventurous stories. Once the first story ends, Edward's wife Sandra tells them it's time for Will to go to bed, but not before Edward tells him another story of a witch that Edward met as a teenager, who showed Edward how he would die.

The story returns to present day, and at the wedding, Edward reveals his correct suspicion that Will's fiancée, Josephine, is pregnant. As the wedding ends, one of the guests, a doctor, notices that Edward seems to be in pain and suggests that he come in for an examination. At the hospital, Edward and Sandra discover that Edward's body has been overcome by cancer. At the same time, in another hospital, Will and Josephine discover that their child is a boy. Will sings of the wonder and mystery of his future child, but his joy is interrupted by a phone call from his mother, telling him about Edward's condition and asking him and Josephine to come home.

In Edward and Sandra's yard, Sandra tells Will that although he and Edward can be a handful, she loves them both. Edward realizes that Josephine has not heard many of his stories and is willing to listen, so he launches into another tale of his high school days when he was the hero of his small town, Ashton, and was the boyfriend of the head cheerleader, Jenny Hill. The town of Ashton was scared because there was a giant living nearby, but Edward volunteered to go talk to him, because he had seen his death from the witch and knew he would not be killed by the giant. He introduced himself to the giant, named Karl, and convinced Karl to join him on a journey away from Ashton.

Back in the present, Josephine has found a house mortgage form signed by Jenny Hill and Edward. She thinks this proves that Edward must be telling the truth, but Will denies it. However, Josephine's interest convinces Will to tell her the story of how his parents met: Edward had taken Karl to try out for a circus. When they got there, three girls were auditioning with their song and dance routine. When Edward saw one of the girls, Sandra, he fell in love at first sight. He convinced the ringmaster, Amos, to hire Karl, and then agreed to work for the circus for free in exchange for one clue about Sandra each month. After three years, Amos finally told him that her name was Sandra, she went to Auburn University, and she loved daffodils.

Edward travelled to Auburn University only to discover that Sandra was engaged to be married to Don Price, Edward's old rival from Ashton. When Don saw Edward talking to Sandra, he started to beat him up. Sandra broke up with Don, telling him that she barely knew Edward, but she still preferred him. Edward promised to love her forever.

Act 2

Edward is leading young Will and some other boys in a boy scouts troop, and tells them the story of when he was in the war and even killed Red Fang, the infamous sniper. Later on, Edward tells Sandra and Will he has to travel for a while for his work as a traveling salesman. Will is upset, but Edward tells him he must be brave and "Fight the Dragons."

In the present, Edward is lying in bed when Will comes in to ask him about the mortgage, as he has always been slightly suspicious that Edward had an affair with Jenny Hill. Edward grows angry, yelling that it is not true and telling Will to get out of his room. He falls into an uneasy sleep and has a dream that he and Will have a Western-style duel over the issue. He wakes up yelling, and as Sandra comforts him, it begins to rain. When Edward says the roof should hold up for another ten years, Sandra tells him "I Don't Need a Roof" to feel at home as much as she needs him.

Will, still unable to lose his suspicions, goes to visit Jenny Hill and find out the truth. She tells him the story of what happened when Edward returned to Ashton. He returned to find that Ashton was about to be flooded, and the people had chained themselves to the statue in the centre of town out of protest. However, when he realized they only had an hour before the flood and that no one knew they were there, he convinced them all to move instead of drown. He visited Amos and Karl, who had both become rich and successful after being inspired by Edward, and using land from Amos and money from Karl, he provided the people with a new town, including a house for Jenny that he signed for. Jenny told him that she had loved him all this time, and although Edward did have some feelings for her, he told her that he truly loved only Sandra. At the end of Jenny's story, Will gets a phone call saying that Edward's condition has worsened.

Alone in the hospital with the unconscious Edward, Will tells him that he understands the reason for his stories, and is interrupted by Edward stirring and asking him how he dies. Will makes up his own story of Edward escaping the hospital and making it to the river, where everyone from his stories is waiting for him. At the river, Edward sings of all his memories and friends. However, in reality, Edward dies in the hospital bed.

The funeral takes place at the river's edge, and as the guests shake Will's hand one by one, he sees that each appears to be the real-world equivalent of the characters from Edward's stories. A few years later, Will begins to tell his son some of the stories, just as Edward did to him.

* Source: Internet Broadway Database

Musical Numbers

  1. Prologue – Orchestra
  2. Be the Hero – Edward Bloom and Company
  3. I Know What You Want – The Witch, Edward Bloom and Company
  4. Stranger – Will Bloom
  5. My Adventure – Sandra Bloom
  6. Ashton's Favorite Son – Company
  7. Out There on the Road – Edward Bloom, Karl, Jenny Hill and Company
  8. Sandra's Wish – Sandra Bloom
  9. Little Lamb from Alabama – Sandra Bloom and Alabama Lambs
  10. Time Stops – Edward Bloom and Sandra Bloom
  11. Closer to Her – Amos Calloway, Edward Bloom and Company
  12. Daffodils – Edward Bloom and Sandra Bloom
  13. Red, White and True – Edward Bloom, Sandra Bloom and Company
  14. Fight the Dragons – Edward Bloom and Young Will Bloom
  15. Showdown – Will Bloom, Edward Bloom and Company
  16. I Don't Need a Roof – Sandra Bloom
  17. Start Over – Edward Bloom, Don Price, Amos Calloway, Karl and Company
  18. Time Stops (Reprise) – Sandra Bloom
  19. What's Next – Will Bloom, Edward Bloom and Company
  20. How It Ends – Edward Bloom
  21. Be the Hero (Reprise) – Will Bloom