Aspen Times Weekly: Tall Tales, Young Talent, ‘Big Fish’ |

Aspen Times Weekly: Tall Tales, Young Talent, ‘Big Fish’

by Andrew Travers
Theatre Aspen Winter Conservatory's "Big Fish," featuring a cast and crew from seven Roaring Fork Valley schools, opens in the Black Box Theatre on Dec. 15.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: ‘Big Fish,” presented by Theatre Aspen School Winter Conservatory

Where: Black Box Theatre

When: Thursday, Dec. 15 through Saturday, Dec. 17

How much: $15-$22

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office;

“You’re an Alabama boy!” Edward Bloom tells his son early on in the musical “Big Fish.” “We’ve got a story under every leaf and every stone.”

But as much as Edward revels in unearthing and polishing (and embellishing) his tall tales, his son, Will, is less enthralled by telling whoppers. As Edward puts it, he was “born a tiny, middle-aged man.”

“Big Fish” is a sentimental portrait of their rocky relationship, eventual reconciliation, and all the fantastic tales in between.

The musical, based on the Daniel Wallace novel and the Tim Burton film adaptation, opened on Broadway in 2013 and is running at the Black Box Theatre in a Theatre Aspen Winter Conservatory production Dec. 15 through 17. Directed and choreographed by Marisa Post, the show has been in rehearsals since late September.

It’s a sweet and big-hearted tearjerker about the tall tale-spinning Edward looking back on his life with Will, who is about to have a child of his own.

In the local production, Edward is played by Aspen High School senior Lyon Hamill, who this month won the Senior Scholarship Award from the Annual Colorado Thespian Conference — the top theater prize statewide for Colorado high schoolers. Fellow senior Luke Ryan tackles the role of Will. In all, there are seven Roaring Fork Valley schools represented among the cast and crew for “Big Fish.”

The young actors in the cast have to juggle three different realities in the show — they bounce between a real-world present, a true past and a fantasy past based on Edward’s stories.

“These actors had to portray these characters in radically different ways to get across the fantasy elements versus the historical and the real life elements,” Theatre Aspen director of education Graham Northrup said at a recent rehearsal. “That’s one of the things that really attracted us to ‘Big Fish.’”

The meaty roles — and big dance numbers — that the show offers the ensemble cast also were a good fit for the conservatory, which includes actors from early elementary school through high school. Among them are a witch and a giant and, yes, some big fish.

“The show is about this father and son,” said Northrup. “But it’s all these other people that create the world that they’re in and they’re obviously integral to the vision of the show.”

The winter conservatory shows have, in recent years, been staged in larger spaces like the Wheeler Opera House or the Aspen District Theatre. This year, they’re in the Black Box Theatre and they’re using the intimate venue to their advantage with “Big Fish,” crafting it into a tender production that’s small in scale but big on emotion.

“If there’s a lesson to be learned,” Northrup said, “it’s that we need to learn to relate to each other — particularly in our families.”

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