Broadway actress Kate Baldwin has been living in the fantasy world of "Big Fish" for more than two years, watching words and musical numbers bring the selection of vivid characters to life.
"I'm just as excited as the audience for this new stage story to emerge," said Baldwin, who said she first joined the "Big Fish" family in fall 2011 for a two-week workshop of the proposed project.
"By the time we did another workshop reading in March 2012, it was easy to see how everything was starting to fit together, even though it was still a work in progress."
What was once a "work in progress" is now very real, as "Big Fish" is now the highly anticipated new musical based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and the 2003 Columbia Pictures film of the same name written by John August.
The musical began previews April 2 in Chicago at Oriental Theatre for the pre-Broadway world premiere in a limited five-week engagement with the official opening tonight and the remaining Windy City run through May 5.
Directed and choreographed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, with music and lyrics by Grammy and Tony Award nominee Andrew Lippa, a book by Grammy and BAFTA Award nominee August, "Big Fish" begins previews in New York at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre Sept. 5, 2013 and opens Oct 6.
Northwestern University alum Baldwin stars as Sandra Bloom, opposite two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz as Edward Bloom and Bobby Steggert as Will Bloom, with Krystal Joy Brown as Josephine Bloom and Zachary Unger as Young Will among the cast of 27.
Billed as "a rollicking fantasy set in the American South," "Big Fish" centers on the charismatic Edward Bloom, whose impossible stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son Will. As Edward's final chapter approaches, Will embarks on his own journey to find out who his father really is, revealing the man behind the myth, the truth from the tall tales. Baldwin said hefty doses of heart, humor and "inventive stagecraft," are the qualities that offer "a tribute to the power of family, dreaming big and the unpredictable adventure of life itself."
"It has been such a great experience to be part of the process to see how this story translates to stage from both the book and movie versions," Baldwin said.
"The lush score we offer to audiences is just as much a part of the magic as is the costume and sets."
"Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions" by Wallace was first printed in 1998. In December 2003, the critically acclaimed film was directed by Tim Burton, starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange and Helena Bonham Carter.
Baldwin also credits Stroman's choreography for adding another dimension to the characters, based on the movement and interaction.
"Big Fish" has scenic design by Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Julian Crouch, costume design by five-time Tony Award winner William Ivey Long, lighting design by two-time Tony Award winner Donald Holder, sound design by Los Angeles Drama Critics Award winner Jon Weston and projection design by Drama Desk Award winner Benjamin Pearcy. The musical direction is by Mary-Mitchell Campbell with orchestrations by Larry Hochman and dance arrangements by Sam Davis.
"There are beautiful moments for this family and also scary moments," said Baldwin, admitting she is "dazzled each night" by the sets and scenes recreating landscapes ranging from the field of daffodils to a circus arena.
"Much of what the audience sees unfolding on stage is best compared to old-fashioned magic and sleight of hand. It's a wonderful feeling to be lost in the moment of each character's imagination."