Published: March 3, 2016
Arts and Life Co-Editor
Friday is opening night for the University Players production of “Big Fish.”
“Big Fish,” a novel and movie prior to becoming a broadway show, is about the strained relationship between Edward Bloom and his journalist son, Will, who has always been confused and bothered by the fantastical stories his father would tell growing up. However, by the end of the show, Will finally understands the wonderful, although superfluous, storytelling ways of his father.
“His father’s a dreamer,” theatre director Michael O’Steen said. “He has tried to make his life seem more grandiose than it is…trying to be the big fish in a big pond, which didn’t give him the kind of relationship his son wanted.”
O’Steen is a professor in the English and theatre department. As an experienced director, he is proud of the show’s progress.
“We’ve got a cast of 16 here I believe, and boy they do so many things. It’s 16 people playing multiple characters.” O’Steen said.
Musicals are performed by the Players only every other year, but the amount of dedication and hard work remains the same.
The Players dedicate a vast number of hours each week to rehearsals. O’Steen mentioned the schedule: Monday through Friday 7 to 10:30 p.m., about four hours on Saturday and all day Sunday, 10 hours of rehearsal.
“There’s just more going on at the same time, that’s the main difference. Acting is the same, directing is the same, design, all the same, now there’s just singing, dancing and an orchestra. There’s a whole lot of costumes, whole lot of sets.” O’Steen said.
The University Players opens auditions to students of all years, majors and minors.
Prior experience is not required.
“We have all majors on campus, we’ve got a bunch of freshmen, a bunch of seniors and a bunch in between. We have that diversity factor,” O’Steen said.
The audience should expect to see some new faces not only on the stage but off as well.
Veteran Players member, senior Brian A. Lenahan, decided to take on the challenges of being the production’s assistant director.
“I figured this would be my best chance to try and see what directing is like because I also want to explore that as a career path,” Lenahan said. “When I asked to be assistant director I was kind of like, ‘I really wanna see what things are like from the other side’…I get to see how Michael does it.”
Senior member Megan Lasky has also experienced assistant directing, but this time could not stray away from being on stage.
“This is my 16th production with the Players. Since we only do a musical every two years, I was happy I got to end with one as great as this,” Lasky said. “This show has been an absolute blast to be a part of so far. We have so many new members involved which is exciting and everyone from the start seemed to get along wonderfully.”
First-year student and Players member Nicolas Gangone agreed.
“That’s the best part of any show, meeting all the new people,” Gangone said. This is his second show with the Players.
“I made a lot of good friends really quickly cause that’s kind of what happens. You spend three, four weeks, every day with someone you become friends,” he said.
Performing in a high level collegiate theater has been an eye opening experience, Gangone said.
“Everyone in the show is so talented it’s crazy. It’s just really crazy how talented everyone is here, even at a school that’s not known for theatre.” he said.
Gangone, Lasky, Lenahan and O’Steele all agree that “Big Fish” is an all-around fun, catchy show that the audience will adore.
“It’s funny. The music is very accessible. It’s sometimes pop, sometimes rock, there’s a big circus scene, there’s some lovely pop rock ballads in it.” O’Steele said.
With so many musical numbers, Gangone found it hard to pick a favorite song out of the show.
“I really like the witches song, that’s really good, really funky. ‘The Road Between Us’ is good, that’s near the end of the show.” he said.
Lasky described the show as absolutely magical.
“Giants, witches, mermaids—you name it! Getting to immerse ourselves in a magical world of story with the lead is an exciting break from mundane, daily life. I think audiences will enjoy it for the same reasons.” Lasky said.
The show will be an experience not merely for the cast, but the audience as well.
“While they may not be on stage, they will still feel like a piece of the magical world that is ‘Big Fish’,” she said.
Catch “Big Fish” Friday 8 p.m,, Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., March 11-13 at the same times in the Royal Theater.
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