BIG FISH is a new Broadway musical featuring music and lyrics by Tony nominee Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party) and a new book by esteemed screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
Based on the celebrated novel by Daniel Wallace and the acclaimed film directed by Tim Burton, BIG FISH centers on Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman who lives life to its fullest… and then some! Edward's incredible, larger-than-life stories thrill everyone around him – most of all, his devoted wife Sandra. But their son Will, about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales.
Overflowing with heart, humor and spectacular stagecraft, BIG FISH is an extraordinary new Broadway musical that reminds us why we love going to the theatre – for an experience that's richer, funnier and BIGGER than life itself.
"A rollicking fantasy set in the American South, Big Fish centers on the charismatic Edward Bloom, whose impossible stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son Will. As Edward's final chapter approaches, Will embarks on his own journey to find out who his father really is, revealing the man behind the myth, the truth from the tall tales."
"YOU SIMPLY MUST SEE BIG FISH." - Norman Lear
"SPECTACULAR. BIG FISH has BIG talents, a BIG cast, a BIG orchestra, BIG production numbers and really BIG special effects..." - The New York Times
"REMARKABLE! A show for everyone who loves musicals. DON’T DARE MISS THIS!" - Variety
"4 stars! A GORGEOUS, CHARMING, DREAM MUSICAL! RAVISHING and ENCHANTING, with ONE KNOCKOUT DANCE NUMBER AFTER ANOTHER..." - Bloomberg News
"A HEARTFELT, POWERFUL AND MOVINGLY SCORED NEW AMERICAN MUSICAL full of QUALITY WRITING by JOHN AUGUST." - Chicago Tribune
BIG FISH is available for licensing in Autumn, 2014. However some local restrictions may apply.
The curtain rises on present-day EDWARD BLOOM (50s) at the banks of a river, skipping rocks. His son WILL (20s) is getting married the next day. Will asks Edward not to tell any of his crazy stories at the wedding. Edward reluctantly agrees. As Will thinks back, he trades places with YOUNG WILL (8). Edward doesn’t want to read his son a bedtime story from a book, but rather tell a story about life (“Be the Hero”), which introduces many characters from Edward’s impossible stories. Edward’s wife SANDRA reminds them that it’s time for bed, but Young Will wants to know more about THE WITCH who showed Edward how he would die (“The Witch”).
The story returns to present day. Preparing for the wedding, Edward reveals his suspicion that Will’s fiancée, JOSEPHINE, is pregnant. Will confirms the hunch and swears Edward to secrecy. But Edward can’t help himself, revealing the news in a toast to the crowd.
In parallel scenes at doctors’ offices, Will and Josephine learn they’re going to have a son, while Edward and Sandra learn that Edward’s cancer has progressed. In New York’s Central Park, Will sings of the wonder and mystery of his future child (“Stranger”), but his joy is interrupted by a phone call from his mother, telling him about Edward’s condition. Will says he’s coming home. In the backyard, Sandra tells Will that although he and Edward can be a handful, she loves them both (“Two Men”). Josephine is eager to hear more of Edward’s stories, so he launches into a tale of his high school days (“Ashton’s Favorite Son”), including his small-town girlfriend (JENNY HILL) and his arch-rival (DON PRICE). Edward journeys to a cave to confront a giant that is frightening the town. But rather than fight KARL THE GIANT, he befriends him and convinces him to join him on an adventure to see the world. (“Out There on the Road”). Back in the present, Josephine gets Will to tell her the story of how his parents met, which brings them to the Calloway Circus. Sandra and two friends audition for ringmaster AMOS CALLOWAY (“Little Lamb from Alabama”), during which Edward falls in love with her at first sight (“Time Stops”). Amos hires Karl The Giant, while Edward agrees to work for the circus for free in exchange for one monthly clue about Sandra (“Closer to Her”). After three years of toil, Amos (secretly a werewolf) finally reveals that her name is Sandra, she goes to Auburn University, and she loves daffodils.
In the present, Josephine discovers a mortgage signed by Edward and Jenny Hill. Will wonders why his father would buy a house with a woman other than his mother. Edward travels to Auburn, only to discover that Sandra is engaged to be married to Don Price from Ashton. Don beats up Edward, but that convinces Sandra to break up with Don. Edward promises to love Sandra forever (“Daffodils”). They kiss.
Reeling from the discovery of the mortgage, Will wonders if his dad had a second life. A second family.
At a campfire, Edward tells Young Will and other scouts about his adventures during The War (“Red, White, and True”), in which he defeats the poison assassin Red Fang. Young Will confronts his father on the impossible historical details.
Later, Edward tells Sandra and Young Will he’ll be traveling more for work. Edward tells Young Will he’ll be the man of the house. He needs to be brave and “Fight the Dragons.” In the present, Will attempts to ask his father about the mortgage, but Edward keeps derailing the conversation with jokes and talk of wooly mammoths. When Will brings up Ashton, Edward grows angry and throws him out. Calmed down by Sandra, Edward falls into an uneasy sleep and dreams of a Western-style duel over the issue (“Showdown”). He wakes up yelling and confused in the middle of a thunderstorm. Sandra comforts him, telling him “I Don’t Need a Roof” to feel at home. She only needs Edward. Will travels to Ashton, where he meets Jenny Hill. She tells him the story of what happened when Edward returned to Ashton. The valley is about to be flooded by a new reservoir, yet the townsfolk refuse to leave, chaining themselves to a statue in protest. Edward convinces them to build a new Ashton (“Start Over”). He gets land from Amos and money from Karl, both of whom have become successful because of Edward. Only Jenny Hill refuses to leave. She’d been waiting in Ashton all these years for Edward to return. To save her life, Edward reconnects with her, and co-signs the mortgage on a new house. They kiss -- but Edward breaks it off. From the moment he saw her until the moment he dies, Sandra is the only woman he’ll love.
As Jenny Hill finishes the story, Will gets a phone call. Edward’s condition has worsened. Alone in the hospital with the unconscious Edward, Will tells him that he went to Ashton, and that he now understands the reason for his stories. Edward stirs, in pain, and asks Will to tell him how he dies. Will has to make up the story on the spot (“What’s Next”) of how Edward escapes the hospital and travels to the river, where everyone from his stories is waiting for him.
At the river, Edward sings about his life and what it meant (“How it Ends”). Back in reality, Edward dies in the hospital bed. The funeral takes place at the river’s edge. As the guests shake Will’s hand, he sees that each is the real-world equivalent of the characters from Edward’s stories. A few years later, Will teaches his own son to fish, and the secret his father taught him (“Be the Hero” reprise).
Author notes from John August
BIG FISH centers on two men — Edward and Will Bloom — and two thematic questions:
1. Mortality, or How Does a Hero Live On?
2. Fatherhood, or What Makes a Good Dad?
Every scene involves one or both characters, and one or both questions. The arc of the play is these
two men and these two questions coming together. Whether you’re reading the play or performing
it, I’d recommend you walk through the play scene-by-scene and song-by-song to discuss how each
moment addresses one or both themes.
Why is Edward telling stories about his past? On the surface, it’s to escape the present. On a deeper
level, it’s to connect to the heroic vision he has of his life as he confronts his death. (Mortality)
Why is Will trying to get details about Edward? On the surface, it’s so he can understand his father.
On a deeper level, it’s to answer the question of what makes a good dad as he takes that role himself.
Edward Bloom is a man who claims to be unafraid of death because of what the Witch showed him.
The truth is, he is afraid, as any rational person would be. Edward is afraid he’s going to disappear.
As a storyteller, he’s cast himself at the center of an epic tale that exists only as spoken words. If he
dies, who is going to keep his stories – his life’s work, his essence – alive? The natural choice would
be his son, but his relationship with Will becomes more and more fractured as the play unfolds.
Will Bloom is not just a witness to Edward's tales; he is ultimately the point of them. But having
heard these stories a thousand times, Will sees them as an act — a disguise behind which his “real”
father is hiding. With a baby of his own on the way, Will is desperately trying to figure out who his
father is. Will is never trying to prove his father wrong. He is never looking for the truth; he is
looking for a man.
Edward can come off like a blow-hard. Remember his fear.
Will can seem too critical. Remember his hope.
You won’t really understand BIG FISH until you look at the story from the female point of view. What
do Sandra and Josephine want? Why does the Witch insist on showing Edward his future? How
does Jenny Hill change the story for Edward and Will? Never forget that each of these characters
has her own life and objectives.
Finally, don’t think of Edward’s tales as flashbacks. These are stories being told in the here-and-now
for the benefit of Will or Young Will. If you get too caught up in the back-and-forth of time, you’ll
confuse yourself and the audience. Always let it be simple.
BIG FISH is set in Alabama. More importantly, it’s not set in New Orleans, or Mississippi, or the
backwoods of Kentucky. Accents in BIG FISH need to be simple and specific and musical. Clarity is
always the key. Words don’t count if the audience can’t understand them.
We pronounce final Rs. Edward fights a war, not a wah. Edward’s wife is Sandra, not Saundra. His
high-school girlfriend is Jenny, not Ginny. (An exception to the usual shift of short e to short i.)
Edward pronounces route as rowt, not rute.
Living in New York, Will Bloom has deliberately minimized his accent. As the play progresses, it’s
fine if it sneaks back in as Will spends more time at home.
BIG FISH can be performed with elaborate sets and magical staging to emphasize Edward’s largerthan-
life stories, or on a dark stage with several chairs to focus on Will’s journey. Regardless of scale,
every production needs to strive for emotional honesty, insight and beauty.
The role of Edward Bloom is played by one actor, spanning ages from 15 to 65. The role of Will is
played by two actors, a boy (Young Will) and a grown man (Will). Because so much of the story is
from Will’s perspective, it’s crucial that the audience always connect that the two Wills are the same
character. Look for ways to physicalize the narrative hand-off between them.
BIG FISH is not a time capsule. The past in Edward’s stories is deliberately impossible (“When did
that all happen?”), so the present day can always be the present day. Technically, that means the
final scene with Will’s young son is several years in the future, but one strongly suspects the future
will have riverbanks and fishing poles just like we have now.
Edward Bloom’s best friends are a giant, a witch and a werewolf. He has a big, accepting heart. It
seems natural that the people in his life might come from a range of ethnic backgrounds. Although
our story is set in the American South, casting should never feel constrained by cultural
Finally, Andrew Lippa has prepared a video offering guidance on the music for BIG FISH. The video can be found if you click on the green "Resources" button on this page. Watch it, because it's a remarkable resource.
Book by JOHN AUGUST
Music and Lyrics by ANDREW LIPPA
Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace
and the Columbia Motion Picture
written by John August
CAST: 10M 8F 1 boy and a chorus
Girl in the Water
The Alabama Lambs
Wedding Guests. New Yorkers, Citizens of Ashton, Circus Performers
Reed 1 (Piccolo, Flute, Alto Flute, Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax)
Reed 2 (Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax, Bassoon)
Two - running time 2:30
July 25 - August 9, 2014
Jedlicka Performing Arts Center
Cicero, IL 60804
August 15 - 24, 2014
St. Luke's United Methodist Church at Windermere
Orlando, FL 32819
September 5 – October 5, 2014
Alluvion Stage Company
Lynchburg, VA 24502
September 12 – 28, 2014
Palo Alto Players
Palo Alto, CA 94301
October 2 - 11, 2014
West Forsyth High School
Cumming, GA 30041
October 10 - 12, 2014
Abilene Christian University
Abilene, TX 79601
Ocotber 23 - November 2, 2014
Skutt Catholic High School
Omaha, NE 68130
October 30 – November 8, 2014
McLean High School
McLean, VA 22101
October 30 - November 8, 2014
Trevecca Nazarene University
Nashville, TN 37210
October 31 - November 16, 2014
Musical Theatre West
Long Beach, CA 90815
November 14 - 23, 2014
Up In Lights Productions
Loveland, CO 80537
November 21 - 23, 2014
Broadway Training Center of Westchester
Irvington, NY 10533
December 4 - 13, 2014
Medicine Hat High School
Medicine Hat, AB T1A 4K1 CA
December 11 - 13, 2014
Thames Valley District School Board - TVDSB
Woodstock, ON N4S 6L9 CA
January 9 - 18, 2015
West Warwick High School Players
West Warwick, RI 02893
February 4 - 14, 2015
Grant MacEwan University
Edmonton, AB T5P 2P7 CA
February 5 - 8, 2015
Sacred Heart Schools
Atherton, CA 94027
February 12 - 21, 2015
Centennial High School
Boise, ID 83713
February 27 - March 19, 2015
Aurora Fox Arts Center
Aurora, CO 80040
March 12 - 14, 2015
Maranatha High School
Pasadena, CA 91105
March 13 - April 12, 2015
Boston, MA 02116
March 17 - 21, 2015
Victoria School of the Arts
Edmonton, AB T5H 1A8 CA
March 19 - 21, 2014
Myers Park High School
Charlotte, NC 28211
March 19 - 22, 2015
Byron High School
Byron, IL 61010
March 27 - 29, 2015
Valverde School of Performing Arts
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739
April 9 - 12, 2015
St. Olaf Theater Department
Norhtfield, MN 55057
April 16 - 19, 2015
York High School
Elmhurst, IL 60126
April 16 - 25, 2015
Fine Linen Drama
Rolla, MO 65401
April 17 - 19, 2015
Nashua, NH 03060
April 24 - 26, 2015
Danville Light Opera
Danville, IL 61832
May 2 - June 20, 2015
Hale Center Foundation
Orem, UT 84057
May 7 - 31, 2015
First Stage Children's Theater
Milwaukee, WI 53212
May 7 - June 7, 2015
Theatre At The Center
Munster, IN 46321
June 10 - 27, 2015
Super Summer Theatre
Las Vegas, NV 89135
June 12 - 22, 2015
Gadsden, AL 35903
July 7 - 11, 2015
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma - Thelma Gaylord Academy
Oklahoma City, OK 73116
July 30 - August 9, 2015
Timber Lake Playhouse
Mount Carroll, IL 61053
September 9 - 26, 2015
City of Vista-Moonlight Stage Productions
Vista, CA 92084
October 14 - November 28, 2015
Hale Centre Theatre
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
October 22 - November 8, 2015
Slow Burn Theatre Co
Boca Raton, FL 33498