Theatre Factory audience is welcomed into the world of 'Big Fish'
Staging a Broadway musical of the caliber of “Big Fish” on a community theater stage would have been impossible if its creators weren't thinking small.
In 2015, John August and Andrew Lippa came up with a more intimate version of their show to accommodate smaller venues such as The Theatre Factory in Trafford.
For Rob Jessup of Murrysville, who portrays Edward Bloom, “the consummate story teller,” the scaled-down production is a perfect fit.
“I saw this show in New York City in 2013 and fell in love with the music,” he says. “I love The Theatre Factory because of the intimacy it provides in being so close to the audience. This show is all about inviting people into Edward's world, and I think that is perfectly achieved in this space.”
Jessup plays Edward at three stages of his life – his teens, middle age and senior years.
His character “has such a desire to experience everything he can to the fullest extent and, if he doesn't actually reach that fullest extent, he's going to sell you on the fact that he did and it was an experience unlike any other,” Jessup says.
Edward's son Will, played by Josh List of Greensburg, doesn't buy most of what the traveling salesman is selling.
“All of Will's life, his father has told him stories about all of these people that he has seen and all of the places he has been,” List says. “These stories are mostly filled with bigger-than-life events that Will, as an adult, cannot and will not accept as being the truth in any way.”
Their relationship changes when Will discovers he has limited time left with his father.
Will's mother and Edward's wife, Sandra Bloom, is portrayed by Katie McCusker of Irwin, who says the show is relatable in some way to everyone, including the cast.
“There was one rehearsal in particular where I unexpectedly started to tear up,” she says. “I was trying my hardest to keep it together. I looked around and saw numerous people with tears in their eyes. It was a very touching moment, realizing all of us have our own connection to this story.”
That includes the director, Scott Calhoon of Marshall-Shadeland, who can relate to a father and son approaching life in different ways.
“My own father and I had deeply different outlooks on how to approach life and what things were important to us,” he says. “It caused a rift between us, just like the rift between Edward and Will in the story. Luckily, we were able to find a common ground like they do.”
List says audiences will be moved by the production and “you will find yourself afterwards calling your loved ones just to say ‘I love you,' because you never know what will happen.”
The cast also features Matt Mlynarski, Jeff Johnston, Grace Bender, Ashley Harmon, Randi Walker, Rebekah Lecocq, Eamonn McElfresh, Griffin Dunn and Jonathan Heinbaugh.
Michael Rozell is music director, Laura Wurzell is choreographer and Bekah Little is stage manager.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.