UWF opens “Big Fish” the musical

University of West Florida’s theater department gears up to perform its first musical since the start of the pandemic.


Chloe Cuyler, Staff Writer

Nothing can hold back the University of West Florida’s Argonauts! The past few semesters proved difficult for many students and faculty members, as more and more courses transitioned from a face-to-face learning environment, to a web-based one. The theater department possibly took one of the largest hits, as its 2020 musical Urinetown was canceled. After facing such devastation, did the drama kids and their mentors bow out and decide that, due to the current climate preventing many theaters – including Broadway – to remain closed, they would forgo their spring 2021 productions? No! Absolutely not! 

That is why, in Spring 2021, UWF’s theater department is in full swing, presenting not one, but two shows – a straight play titled Clybourne Park and a musical called Big Fish.

Big Fish is a musical based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel and Tim Burton’s 2003 fantasy, a drama-comedy film by the same name. The musical tells the story of a man named Edward Bloom. Edward, a traveling salesman, is a big fish in a little pond. He’s a dreamer destined for bigger, more thrilling adventures – even if they are not necessarily real. Edward loves to tell elaborate, mystical, wondrous tales that captivate anyone who will listen, keeping them on the edge of their seats. While everyone seems to love Edward’s tales, including his wife, Sandra, his son, Will, can’t help but feel like they are keeping him from getting to know who his father really is. When Edward and his family discover that he is dying, Will makes it his mission to learn just the type of man his father is – by using his stories as clues. As the story of Big Fish shifts between timelines, present day Edward deals with his morality, while a teenaged Edward encounters a witch, befriends a giant, and even works at a circus. 

Big Fish is a show of epic proportions, filled with comedy, adventure, and relatable issues regarding morality and family. 

If this wasn’t enough to draw an audience to the show, the production’s talented cast definitely will! This production features the talents of Noah Peacock, Katie Smith, and Jacob Gonzolez as Edward and Sandra Bloom, nee Templeton, and their son, Will. Peacock and Smith are no newcomers to UWF’s stage. Peacock was previously featured in UWF’s productions of First Date, Silent Sky, and Urinetown. The latter of which was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19. Smith had roles in the university’s productions of The Little Mermaid, Dearly Departed, and also Urinetown. Gonzalez, while a freshman at UWF, is no stranger to the stage, having appeared in his high school’s productions of Curtains, State Fair, Charlie Brown, Little Women and Bright Star

Not only does UWF’s production of Big Fish feature an amazing cast. Its production team and crew is equally as impressive. Directing Big Fish is Sara Schoch. Schoch is a seasoned veteran of the stage, having earned a BFA in Musical Theatre from SUNY-Fredonia and an MFA in Acting from Brandeis University. Schoch has also been featured in over 150 professional theatrical productions. These productions include the 2015 SpeakEasy Stage Company’s New England premiere of a new adaptation of Big Fish, referred to as the “12 chairs version.” In this production, Schoch took on the role of Jenny Hill, a mysterious woman from Edward’s past – who just happened to have been his high school girlfriend. The production team also features the likes of Holly Joy Griffin as scenic designer, Joshua Heming as lighting designer, Kristen Taylor as costume designer, and Kayla Mangold as stage manager. Griffin, an alum of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of South Florida, has a rich history in scene design, having worked on shows including Chaplin on Broadway and the television series Punisher. Heming, Taylor, and Mangold are all seniors who have worked on several other UWF productions, including Little Women, The Little Mermaid, and A Christmas Carol

Big Fish hits the stage tomorrow, Saturday, April 24 at 7:30. A second production will be held on Sunday, April 25 at 2:30. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only UWF students are allowed to attend the live performances. Each performance is restricted to a 49 seat capacity. Seats are on a first-come-first-serve basis. All tickets, whether online or in-person are free to students. If you can’t make it to this week’s performances, don’t fret! Next week UWF will be broadcasting a recording of the show on Thursday and Friday, April 29 and 30 at 7:30. Tickets to the online broadcast can be acquired at the following link: https://uwf.booktix.com/view/2/d102b9d2203123be/

We hope that you support the amazing and hardworking cast and crew of Big Fish, whether from an auditorium seat or from the comfort of your own home!