Big Fish is playing for another five weeks on Broadway before the story ends once and for all. There's so much richness to see about dreams, love, and transformation. From early on in the show, you discover what's possible for both the characters and for the stagehands to put together such an ambitious and original production. Leading the way on the stage is Ciara Renee in the role of the witch, a sort of witch you've never come across before. Here, Renee shared some of her thoughts on the role, and the production:
I understand this is your first time on Broadway. What's the experience been like thus far?
Renee: It's been more amazing than I could ever imagine! It's been challenging, it's been fun, and I've learned so much from really incredible people.
This play reinterprets the role of a witch, retaining the darkness and spookiness but also giving her some level of sincerity. It's sort of your first cue that this show isn't like other ones. How'd you prepare for this role?
Renee: Well I, of course, did my background research by watching the movie and reading the book of Big Fish, but since this witch is a bit of a departure from the book and movie I had to kind of feel out what was right for her. Susan Stroman and I talked a lot about what kind of witch she was and what she represents, and a few of the words we tossed around were things like gypsy, sexy, powerful, mature. So I did a little research on gypsies and tried to incorporate the descriptive words we felt were appropriate and after a lot of blood and sweat, viola! You have The Witch!
Your song "The Witch" is one of the standout numbers in the show. What was it like to take on such a central part in a big Broadway production like this?
Renee: It was certainly a little daunting, but I live for a good challenge and having so many people there to support me and push me to be bigger, better, and bolder really made the experience enjoyable.
(Image via Paul Kolnik)
You're also a member of the impressive ensemble cast. Was it hard to keep up with all of the entrances, exits and costume changes?
Renee: I'll be honest, there may have been a mini meltdown or two during techs. I was scaling this incredibly steep learning curve and in a very short amount of time, and so were all of my dressers and a lot of the crew, so things got pretty crazy backstage. But with a little determination and a lot of teamwork we figured it out. I will forever be grateful to my incredible dressers for helping me through that time.
The set and the scenery stood out for me as immaculate and remarkably ambitious. There are literally dozens of settings for scenes in the musical. Can you talk a little about the beauty that appears behind you on stage?
Renee: I wish I could, but it's a little hard having never seen it from the front. All I know is that people are constantly moving backstage to make what happens onstage truly incredible. And of the little bit I have seen, I was really blown away. I mean the projections alone are enough to make you wanna see this show!
At its core, this play is all about love and leaves audience members with something to think about in their own personal relationships. Does this play speak to you in any particular way?
Renee: I think we can all take something away from this piece, whether it rings true with our parents, siblings, friends, significant others, etc. You can never take those you love for granted, and you have to be willing to be open and really communicate with one another to make any relationship work. And that's just it, relationships take work and they take compromise and compassion and understanding. Which I'm sure we could all work on being and doing a little more of.