“Big Fish, 12 Chair Version,” Pepperdine University’s latest musical production, opens November 9 for a seven-show run through November 18.
A musical production for the whole family, “Big Fish” brings to life the fantastical stories of traveling salesman Edward Bloom, who lives life to its fullest. As Edward’s larger-than-life stories delight everyone, especially his devoted wife Sandra, son Will, embarking on his own journey of fatherhood, seeks to discover the truth behind his father’s epic tales of witches, giants and mermaids. Overflowing with heart and shifting between present-day and a storybook past, the musical brings a family and community together as it reveals the true meaning of friendship.
“I just loved the message of ‘Big Fish,’” says Director Cathy Thomas-Grant, citing the teamwork, acting and music as highlights of the production that she says “really struck a chord with my heart.”
“This is a profound story to me that I wanted to tell as a human being, as a daughter, as a storyteller, even as a parent,” says Thomas-Grant, noting the story is appealing to the whole family.
In her 23rd year directing at Pepperdine and with decades of musicals under her belt, Thomas-Grant compares each production to a roller coaster ride akin to giving birth. “It’s so alive!” she laughs.
“Big Fish”: Past & Present
Released on the big screen by Columbia Motion Pictures in 1993, the movie “Big Fish” was directed by Tim Burton and based on the novel by John August. Author Daniel Wallace and August adapted the book into a screenplay, with music and lyrics written by Andrew Lippa. The production opened on Broadway, directed by Susan Stroman, in 2013.
Seaver College’s production of the “Big Fish” musical was auditioned and cast during the very first week of school, and students have been excitedly preparing for their opening performance ever since.
“The students here are so passionate,” marvels Thomas-Grant. “I don’t know how they juggle 18 units and a full rehearsal schedule; they just love what they do!” she adds.
Along with fellow Pepperdine Professors Kelly Todd, as choreographer, and Melanie Emilio, as vocal director, the cast and crew are dedicating countless hours to choreography, learning music and rehearsing lines.
Under her experienced eye, Thomas-Grant’s ensemble of student actors are taking risks and stretching themselves to merge with “Big Fish’s” fantastical stories and characters.
With a BA in Theatre, an MFA in Acting, and decades of experience directing and acting in stage productions, including seven years at the San Francisco American Conservatory Theatre and in the Midwest, Thomas-Grant thoroughly enjoys leading her students to new horizons on stage.
Thomas-Grant also serves as the Pepperdine University Edinburgh Program Director and is currently Divisional Dean of Fine Arts at Pepperdine University. Productions for the Fringe include “Mr. Happiness/The Water Engine,” “Necessary Targets,” “The Kentucky Cycle,” “The Fastest Woman Alive,” “Language of Angels,” musical direction for “The Grapes of Wrath,” the Fringe First Award-winning “Why Do You Stand There in the Rain?” by Peter Arnott and “The Interference,” by Lynda Radley. Her selected Pepperdine directing credits include “Heritage,” by Nicola McCartney, “Les Misérables,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Seagull” (translation by Martin Crimp), Michael Redhill’s “Goodness,” “The Rivals,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “King Lear,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Death of a Salesman.”
Professor Thomas-Grant was a recipient of the Howard A. White Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009 and the Graves Award in 2003.
“Big Fish” starts its seven-show run Nov. 9, at 7:30, in Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre. Tickets are $20, general admission; $10 for Pepperdine students and $16 for faculty and staff.
For more information, visit Arts.Pepperdine.edu or call 310.506.4522.