Arts

‘Big Fish’ Author On His Book’s ‘Metamorphosis’ Into Musical

Daniel Wallace's 1998 novel ''Big Fish'' has been adapted into both a film and a musical, the latter of which Theatrical Outfit is bringing to Atlanta.
Daniel Wallace's 1998 novel ''Big Fish'' has been adapted into both a film and a musical, the latter of which Theatrical Outfit is bringing to Atlanta.
Credit Iman Woods

In the musical “Big Fish,” the main character, Edward Bloom, sings “I’ve never been a man who lived an office life … I always been a man that said staying still is playing dead.” For Bloom, he can’t live an ordinary life, and indeed, the way he tells it, his life has been quite extraordinary – from befriending a giant to conjuring a full field of daffodils for his future wife.

But as Edward Bloom ages, his son wants to know the truth behind the tall tales.

“Edward is charming, and he is slippery,” said Daniel Wallace in an interview with Lois Reitzes. He wrote the 1998 novel that the 2013 Broadway musical and the 2003 film “Big Fish” are based on, the latter of which is coming to Atlanta starting in December.

“Big Fish” comes from the common phrase that Wallace’s father used to say, that he didn’t want to be a big fish in a small pond. And the title works on many levels, said Wallace.

“There’s that big fish in a little pond, and also, the big fish is the essence of the tall tale which is you always enlarge the size of the fish that you caught the more you tell the story. And it’s so slippery, you can’t get a hold of it,” he said.

Daniel Wallace has a tall tale or two for his own life. His website lists him as an author, professor and alligator wrangler.

“This is a good example of how stories get out into the world and assume a truth of their own,” Wallace said. “I’ve retired.”

Wallace’s novel has clearly had many iterations, but he said he never had a problem with letting go of his stories.

“The book doesn’t change, no matter what happens later with a movie or a musical,” he said. “People ask, ‘Do you mind how they changed your book?’ And I can say, ‘They didn’t change it. It’s the same. Not a word has been changed.’ It’s like this continual metamorphosis and liveliness, and it’s just a testament to the story.”

Theatrical Outfit is bringing “Big Fish” to the Balzer Theater at Herren’s with previews on Dec. 1 and 3. Opening night is Dec. 3, and the show runs through Dec. 16. All show times are here.

You can hear more from Wallace and Theatrical Outfit’s Artistic Director Tom Key in the interview above.

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