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Expect a reel good time with 'Big Fish' at The Empty Space

A larger-than-life adventure heads to The Empty Space this weekend with the opening of "Big Fish."

Based on the 2003 Tim Burton film "Big Fish," which was adapted from a novel by Daniel Wallace, the musical centers on the relationship between Will Bloom (Alex Mitts) and his father, Edward (Shawn Rader), a former traveling salesman with a penchant for tall stories.

"It’s a beautiful story about the dynamic of family relationships and how to evaluate those and put a lens on them," said director Abby Bowles-Votaw. "Considering how your own relationships with your family are, and, if they're not great, you need to fix them."

With Will about to have a child of his own with wife Josephine (Shelbe McClain), he wants to get to the bottom of the stories he was told by his father, who he has learned is dying.

Bowles-Votaw said she worked with the cast exploring the show's major themes.

"We spent the first week of rehearsals talking about these big topics of the show. How to tap into those emotions, to know that families aren't perfect and that's OK."

The show's emotion is balanced by the theatricality of Edward's stories, which include a run-in with a witch (Megan E. Jarrett), a giant in a cave (Eric Lempinen) and a circus where he meets his future wife, Sandra (Nancee Steiger).

"It’s definitely a show of spectacle," Bowles-Votaw said. "I'm relying heavily on my lighting, costume design. We do have double projections in the show to help with presentation. This show is enhanced by all of the bright colors and definitely the choreography as well. My choreographer (Jennifer Skiby Plunkett) is amazing."

Since a carnival plays a key role in the musical, this opening weekend will be a carnival gala. For $25, guests will be able to enjoy a pre-show cocktail hour with complimentary carnival-themed appetizers and soft drinks.

Show-themed specialty drinks will be offered at the gala and through the run of the show including the Blooming Shandy, Witch's Spritzer and the nonalcoholic Fisherman's Float. Sodas, hot cocoa, candy, cookies and popcorn as well as beer and hard seltzer will also be served.

There will also be a photo opp and prize wheel with giveaways for carnival toys, free show tickets, Empty Space merchandise, snacks and more. Both nights will feature a raffle of a basket that contains a copy of the "Big Fish" book on which the show is based, carnival treats, a small fish bowl of candy, fairy twinkle lights and more. Each guest receives one raffle ticket with admission and can purchase more for $1 at the snack bar.

Along with a good time, Bowles-Votaw hopes viewers walk away from the musical understanding the importance of connecting with loved ones while you can.

"I want them to know relationships matter. If they can, fix them. Live the best life they can with the best people around them."

Holiday Boutique

Along with the opening of "Big Fish," this weekend brings the start of the Holiday Boutique, which will run concurrently with the show through Dec. 18.

Eight artists are taking part: Kristina Saldaña, Jesus Fidel, Michelle Guerrero, John Buford, April Gray, Jillian Shamblin, Claire Rock and Lindsay Haney.

A variety of hand-crafted or designed pieces will be available for sale ranging in price from $2 to $50. Items include, but are not limited to, hand-made scarves, cowls and shawls; tie-dyed T-shirts; bath salts and soaps; Christmas ornaments; original art pieces and prints; vases and other homeware; earrings, bracelets, necklaces and lanyards; jams and hot sauces.

"We have a couple of ceramic home items that are pretty special but you’ll have to pop by to see them!," Saldaña wrote in an email. "The handmade tie-dyed Empty Space shirts are incredible with all sizes and colors available. The homemade soaps by Jillian Shamblin smell amazing and are great stocking stuffers."

Shoppers can receive a gift bag for their purchase free of charge but donations are accepted.

The boutique will be open at 7:30 p.m. the night of performances as well as during the show's intermission and for a period after it ends.

Photos of items for sale will be posted on The Empty Space's social media over the next five weeks to let people know what's available and what may sell out.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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