LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – If you’re a Tim Burton fan, you’ll have a lot to love about Riverwalk Theatre’s latest production.
“Big Fish” is a musical first performed in 2013 that is based on Burton’s 2003 film of the same name – itself an adaptation of a 1998 novel written by Daniel Wallace.
Wayne Williams is in the director’s chair. While he’s previously acted in several Riverwalk productions since 2015, “Big Fish” is his directorial debut for the stalwart Lansing theater company.
Williams loves all things theater, and he’s also directed plays for other local theater groups like All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre.
Whether he prefers acting or directing is a difficult question for him to answer.
“If you ask me that question while I’m directing, I’ll say that I want to be an actor again. But if you ask me while I’m acting, I’ll always tell you that I’d rather be directing,” Williams said.
“Big Fish” began its long journey to the stage this past December when Williams submitted an application with Riverwalk requesting to direct the play.
Williams was attracted to both the music of “Big Fish” and the immense emotional impact of its story, which explores a father and son relationship that is both uplifting and tragic.
“I fell in love with it. It is the story of a father and a son at its heart. The father has spent most of his life as a traveling salesman and tells his son these tall tales but was never around a lot,” Williams said. “His son is trying to piece together, through the stories he’s been told, who his father really is – all while his father is battling a terminal illness.”
After its approval, it was scheduled for the 2022 season and work piecing together the cast and crew soon began.
“It was an interesting process. We auditioned for the show back in June. They’ve been rehearsing since the last week of June, four nights a week,” Williams said. “Bringing it all together, coordinating props, lights, sound, and the set to make sure it all comes together by the time show opens – it felt like a very long process while I was in it, but it went by very quickly.”
Considering that the story of “Big Fish” revolves around tall tales and urban mythology, it only makes sense that it’s been retold so many different times and adapted as a book, movie and musical.
But Williams said the heart of the story always shines through.
“All three are different in their scope and how they play out. But they all center around the same thing and are wonderful in their own regard,” Williams said.
“Big Fish” is in its second week of showings. Williams said the first week was a “magical moment” and was very pleased with the energy of the cast and how the audience responded to the play.
“This cast gave an amazing energy and vibrancy to their performance,” Williams said. “This is the second half, and they’re giving everything they have to finish just as strong as they started.”
While Riverwalk Theatre indeed has a dedicated core audience, many around Lansing might not know they have an excellent drama house that routinely churns out high quality productions.
“Experiencing live theater is a unique experience. It’s not like watching a film or a television show. You’re there with the actors. You can see them; they can see you. You feed off the energy both parties are giving and it’s an incredible experience,” Williams said. “Not only are you supporting the arts in general, but you’re supporting the arts in Lansing. Supporting Riverwalk supports the vibrant arts in Lansing.”
You can catch “Big Fish” through Sunday. For showtimes and tickets, visit riverwalktheatre.com