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South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, presented Big Fish School Edition to the Cappies Critics on May 4, 2024. Here are the top two Cappies Critic reviews.

Alden Walcott

Langley High School


Pull up a rocking chair and grab a glass of sweet tea, because South Lakes High School’s "Big Fish School Edition" has a good old-fashioned tall tale for you!


"Big Fish," a musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by John August, is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel "Big Fish: A Novel of Epic Proportions" and the subsequent 2003 feature film directed by Tim Burton. The musical opened on Broadway on October 6, 2013, and tells the story of the strained relationship between Alabama-based traveling salesman Edward Bloom and his son Will.  The plot shifts between the story of adult Will, newly married and about to become a father, seeking to reconcile his differences with his own father, who is now dying of cancer, and the storybook past that Edward has told Will as a series of fantastical stories featuring imaginary friends and epic adventures. The plot lines meet as Will uncovers a true but hidden story from his father’s past. Ultimately an exploration of family, love, and the stories we tell ourselves, "Big Fish" encourages us to not only see the truth in the stories of those who love us, but to be the hero of our own.


Edward Bloom, the enigmatic father who wanted his son to see him as a hero, was brought to life with layers of depth and maturity by August Rivers, traversing both the reality and fantasy of Edward’s life with skillful vocals and emotional resonance. Adept at both comedic timing and a Southern accent, Rivers shifted effortlessly from the younger version of Edward to the older man, portraying the emotional complexity of a man who knows he has missed moments with his son but desperately wants his son’s acceptance.


Itsuko Scoville delivered a standout performance as Sandra Bloom, Edward’s wife and his one great love. Scoville moved the audience to tears with her vulnerability as she faced her husband’s death in “I Don’t Need a Roof” while bringing an energy to her youthful relationship to Edward that deepened over the course of their marriage. Also not to be missed was Will Bloom, played by Henry Carter, who delivered a measured, grounded performance that highlighted Will’s skepticism and explicitly rational nature, drawing a contrast with his father.


South Lakes’ impressive performance on stage was complemented by outstanding technical elements. The choreography (by Noah Kennedy, Anna Leo, and August Rivers) was extensive, encompassing a vast array of dance styles—from tap to Paso Doble—that matched the frenetic energy of Edward’s outlandish stories, bringing them to life in tangible form. The pace and intensity of the choreography was matched by the attention to detail in the costumes. Creating 500 pieces, the costume designers (Logan Lin, Anna Schoenborn, and the Big Fish Costume Assistants) carefully constructed the costumes for Edward’s stories in bright, vibrant colors to make them feel animated and larger than life while choosing more muted colors to depict Edward’s current reality. The deliberately minimal set (by the Big Fish Scenic Design, Set Construction, and Painting Crew) captured the essence of rural Alabama with wooden shiplap walls doubling as simple exteriors useful in both storylines as well as backdrops for a variety of special effects projections. Adding in surprises such as fields of daffodils springing from the set pieces and a cannon large enough to shoot Edward across the stage, the set added to the transportive effect of the production.


With heart and charm, South Lakes High School’s production of "Big Fish School Edition" reminded audiences of the magic of life and encouraged them to create their own.

Audrey Link

McLean High School


“Life begins when you know how it ends,” or so says The Witch from the tales of Edward Bloom; but what happens when one is unable to distinguish real life from fiction? This theme is explored by the wonderfully talented cast and crew of South Lakes High School’s production of “Big Fish School Edition,” a heartwarming tale of love, parenthood, and the stories that bind a family together.


Written by Andrew Lippa and John August, “Big Fish” is based on the 1998 novel and 2003 film of the same name and opened on Broadway in 2013. The story revolves around Edward Bloom, an idealistic and creative traveling salesman, and his son Will, a realist who has grown up listening to his father’s fantastical life stories. The show opens with Will getting married and preparing to welcome a baby while Edward struggles with his recent cancer diagnosis. As Will realizes that he will soon lose his father, he worries that he will never truly know him and grapples with determining fact from fiction in his father’s stories. Will decides to document all the tales his father ever told him, and as the stories come to life around him, he realizes that maybe there is truth to the magical tales after all.


August Rivers as Edward Bloom delivered strong tenor vocals and a confident stage presence from his very first line. Rivers expertly navigated his role as he switched from a slower, older Edward to the young and lively Edward from his stories. Opposite Rivers was Henry Carter as Will Bloom, whose rigid posture and matter-of-fact tone was a stark contrast to Edward’s easygoing personality. Their character differences came to a head in “The River Between Us,” an intense and powerful duet from Act Two.


As Sandra Bloom, Itsuko Scoville exuded warmth in every scene with her perfect Alabama accent and smooth soprano voice. Other standout performers include Josh Lewis as Amos Calloway and Noah Kennedy as Karl the Giant. Lewis was the epitome of a greedy showman but soon revealed that he was just a lonesome werewolf, and he provided many comedic moments as he howled and chased after bouncy balls. Kennedy handled the challenge of walking on stilts as Karl the Giant with incredible grace and never failed to elicit laughs from the audience. Last but not least, the entire Story Ensemble was consistently energized and engaged in every scene and executed the dances for each number flawlessly, ranging from jazz to partner dancing to tap.


One notable technical element that made this show shine were the costumes designed by Anna Schoenborn and Logan Lin. The bright, bold outfits of the characters from Edward’s stories made them appear larger than life, and the quick costume changes for Edward as he went back and forth between time periods were seamless. The hair and make-up, designed by Isabelle Philippe and Mae Shaw, was impeccable. There were various wigs that had been beautifully styled by hand, and Sandra’s many hair changes were completed with ease. The choreography for this show, done by students Anna Leo, Noah Kennedy, and August Rivers, truly elevated every number, but especially in “Red, White, & True,” as the tap dancing left the audience in total awe.


Overall, the cast and crew of “Big Fish School Edition” expertly executed this tale of a father and son struggling to understand one another through a beautiful range of dances and songs, reminding the audience of the importance of family and that everyone can be the hero of their story while still staying true to themselves.



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