Reeling in ‘Big Fish’ again

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:13 AM

The headline on broadway.com last week reported, “Broadway Grosses: ‘Big Fish’ Reels In a Huge Audience.”
“Big Fish” is a new Broadway musical based on Chapel Hill’s Daniel Wallace’s novel and the movie based on that book.
Even though “Big Fish” the musical does not open on Broadway until next month, its previews are selling out. Here is what Broadway.com said: “While we’re on the subject of filling seats, give a big tip of the hat to the brand new musical ‘Big Fish,’ which began previews on Broadway this week and managed to fill over 100 percent house capacity with just four preview performances. Norbert Leo Butz, good job reeling in that giant audience!”
More about Butz in a minute.
But first think about this. The only other Broadway show to report more than 100 percent capacity was longtime hit, “The Book of Mormon.” Close behind were “The Lion King,” “Kinky Boots” and “Wicked,” all established popular productions.
Doing so well in the previews this month does not guarantee success, but it gives good reason to be hopeful and watchful.
What will the success of a Broadway musical mean to the author of the book that inspired it? Daniel Wallace told me the other day that he is merely an enthusiastic follower of the development of the musical, just as he was with the making of the “Big Fish” movie.
The book inspired the movie and the movie inspired the musical. Although the movie and musical follow the basic story Wallace developed in the book, they are all different, Wallace explained. Although, the writers and producers make changes in the book’s story, Wallace smiles as he emphasizes that they cannot change his book. “The book is mine and the movie and musical are theirs,” he says.
Wallace admires the musical, just as he admired the movie. Watching the productions develop he learned something about how writers in other mediums tell stories and has used some of their techniques in his own writing. In fact, he has added scriptwriting to his long list of artistic skills.
Wallace is enthusiastic about the cast of the musical, especially Norbert Leo Butz, who plays Edward Bloom, the lead character who tells the tall tales and big fish stories that gave the book its name. Wallace says that Butz is even closer to the Edward Bloom he wrote about than the wonderful performance of Albert Finney in the movie.
In case you have forgotten, here is a promotional summary of the story the new musical will tell. “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.”
Wallace says that Butz’s acting and singing will make Edward Bloom an unforgettable character. On opening night, Wallace and his wife, Laura, will be in one of the Neil Simon Theater’s best seats reeling in and believing their own unbelievable, tall tale, big fish dream.
D.G. Martin’s recent conversation on WCHL with Daniel Wallace about the new musical is available on chapelboro.com at http://chapelboro.com/category/wchl/lifestyle-weekly/whos-talking/.