‘Big Fish’ is going to make a splash in Sunnyvale

By Ande Jacobson

Sunnyvale Community Players’ (SCP) is destined to make a big splash with Big Fish, opening on 23 October 2021. This is the musical based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, and the 2003 Tim Burton film, Big Fish. A little over a decade after the film debuted, the musical version of the story made it to Broadway in a show with book by John August (who also wrote the screenplay for the Burton film) and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. There are a few small differences in the plotline details between the movie and the musical, but the overall story remains. Big Fish follows Edward Bloom, a man who tells a version of his life history through his mythic stories that mesmerize anyone who will listen, especially his wife, Sandra. His storybook adventures are about living life to the fullest and being the hero of your own story. They are about love. They are about imagination and what the future holds. They also hide a deep secret that he never told his son Will about. Will is desperate to know the real story about his father’s life, as he is on the cusp of becoming a father himself. The show has a lot of heart and humor as it follows a dual timeline intermixing Bloom’s fairytale adventures with present day reality. It also provides some engaging life lessons to which everyone can relate.

In March of 2020, the cast of SCP’s production of Big Fish was heavy into rehearsals getting ready to open in April, and then we all know what happened. Theaters shut down. People stayed home, but these dedicated artists maintained hope that they’d be able to come together soon to resume rehearsals and jump into their run. First they thought they’d be able to open in the summer, but that didn’t happen. Then they were hoping for the fall of 2020, and that didn’t happen either. Finally, as vaccinations spread through the community this year, things started to look hopeful, but by this time, much of the original staff was no longer available other than music director Benjamin Belew. The rest of the creative staff had to be replaced, and the new staff has picked up and pushed forward to build a bold show that should delight audiences.

Here’s a sample of what this cast was doing with the show while they eagerly awaited their return to the theater:

Mary Melnick plays Sandra, and has this to say about being in this show:

John Mannion plays Amos Calloway, the owner of a circus with whom Bloom crosses paths, and he is excited to bring this show to audiences.

The staff includes:

  • Director: Erica Wyman Abrahamson
  • Assistant Director: Dan Martin
  • Music Director: Benjamin Belew
  • Choreographer: Christine Baker
  • Tap Choreographer: Kayvon Kordestani
  • Vocal Director: Kristin Pfeifer
  • Producers: Kevin Surace, Peter Wallack

The Cast includes:

Edward Bloom – Michael Paul Hirsch
Will Bloom – Derek DeMarco
Sandra Bloom – Mary Melnick
Young Will – Yair Freund
Josephine Bloom – Lani Yort
Karl – Ron Packard
Amos Calloway – John Mannion
The Witch – Molly Thornton
Don Price – Andrew Cope
Jenny Hill – Jen Wheatonfox
Zachy Price – Brian Healy
Dr. Bennett – Dan Rich
Girl in the Water – Phallyn Navarro
Alabama Lambs – Tiffany Jianto and Catherine Traceski
(Wedding Guests, New Yorkers, Citizens of Ashton, Circus Performers, Dancers)
Marlon Chen, Selina Chih, Alyson Chilton, Andrew Cope, Ashley Faus, Brian Healy,
Robin Holbrook, Tiffany Jianto, Leo Lopez, Jessica Lubke, Phallyn Navarro,
Reggie Reynolds, Dan Rich, Molly Thornton, Catherine Traceski, Jen Wheatonfox

​The orchestration is written for 14 musicians. For a variety of reasons, Belew has condensed this to a 10-piece ensemble of experienced musicians excited to be back in the Sunnyvale pit. Most of the players have worked closely with Belew in previous shows, and this promises to be a solid ensemble. This lively score is filled with rich textures and will inspire toe-tapping and smiles all around.

The orchestra includes:

  • Music Director/Keyboard: Benjamin Belew
  • Bass: George Alfs
  • Drums: Peter Wallack
  • Percussion: Bob Wylie
  • Guitar: Michael Firefly Perry
  • Horn: Jerry Simon
  • Reeds: Flute/Piccolo – Maretha Davel; Reeds (1/performance) – Jordan Selburn, Asa Stern
  • Cello: Annette Deschon
  • Violin: Yuriko Suzuki

Tickets are available online or by phone at 408-475-1198 to attend in-person at the theater. The show runs Thursdays – Sundays, 23 October – 7 November 2021. For those not quite ready to venture out to the theater in-person, streaming tickets are available for performances starting Thursday, 28 October 2021. Student and senior (60+) discounts are available for in-person tickets only.

Performances are at the Sunnyvale Community Theater located at: 550 E. Remington Dr., Sunnyvale CA 94087.

SCP is taking COVID-19 safety seriously following all CDC, State, and Local safety guidelines for the safety of its audiences, actors, musicians, and staff. To that end, audience members will need to provide proof of vaccination to attend and will need to wear a mask at all times when in the building. Any patron not complying with the mask rules will be ejected. Because of the vaccination requirement, children too young to be vaccinated cannot be admitted.

All company members have been fully vaccinated. While actors will not be masked while onstage, nor will many of the musicians while playing, they will be masked otherwise, and everyone else in the company such as crew and staff will be required to wear masks at all times when in the building. No food or water will be allowed in the auditorium. Further, to allow more separation between the performers and audience members, the front row will not be accessible to the audience.

Please join Sunnyvale Community Players for this production.

Big Fish (Film)
Big Fish (Cast Recording)
Big Fish Vocal Selections

(Photos and videos courtesy of Sunnyvale Community Players)

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