Catch 'Big Fish' at Hampton High School
“Big Fish,” this year's spring musical at Hampton High School, dives a little deeper into emotions and story lines, compared with the more comedic shows the school has done in recent years, according to director Dan Franklin.
While it certainly offers comedy, Franklin said “Big Fish” has “emotional, poignant moments.” He describes the show as enjoyable for the whole family, but something that should resonate with adults who know about loss and finding love, paternal relationships and life in general.
“It's definitely kid-friendly, but I think the older adults are really going to appreciate it, especially those who have experienced life,” said Franklin, who is also a fine arts and theater instructor at the school as well as the Drama Club advisor.
The production, which mirrors Director Tim Burton's 2003 film of the same name, features the relationship between a traveling salesman, Edward Bloom, and his adult son, Will, who tries to unravel his father's lives and tales in an effort to separate fact from fiction.
The musical has a cast of 57 high school students and 12 from third through fifth grades who also had to audition for child roles.
The role of Fish's lead character, Ed Bloom, was landed — fittingly — by freshman Joe Fish, who said he was “shocked” to to be chosen for the main character of his first real stage experience.
“I'm extremely happy and humbled to get the lead role,” said Fish, 15, adding he found the diverse dancing the most challenging aspect to the show.
Choreographer and co-director Jen Lavella said “Big Fish” features tap, western, Fosse-style dancing and even an Alabama Stomp.
Franklin, a Beechview resident, is very excited about “Big Fish” because it's so different from Hampton's usual fare. For example, last year's musical was Money Python farce, “Spamalot,” which was nominated for six awards, including best musical, at the 2016 Gene Kelly Awards by the Pittsburgh CLO.
“It's so refreshing to do a show replacing one-liners, punchlines and jokes with real dialogue,” he said.
Overall, approximately 140 students are involved in the production, including orchestra, stage crew, costuming and more. Rehearsald started in December, but the process gets under way with auditions in September.
The visually appealing and abstract set design will provide lots of hidden surprises that the audience will enjoy, said Franklin, who also directs the fall play.
Andrew Kaehly, a Central fifth-grader, said he couldn't believe he got the biggest junior role, “young Will.”
“When I got the part, it was like my life changed,” Kaehly said.
The 11-year-old said it's his first real play and he enjoys being onstage and acting with the older kids who are all very nice and positive, giving him lots of pointers.
Fish also described his fellow castmates are “awesome people.”
“One of the best most supportive groups I've ever been involved with,” he said.
His role involves playing his character as a young boy, a man in his 20s, and then as an elder in the final stages of life. Fish hopes to please relatives coming in from California and Nevada just to see him on stage.
Franklin said the whole experience is nerve-wracking, but he's looking forward to the result.
“I know that the final product is going to be amazing,” said Franklin.
Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.