Kate Baldwin stars as Sandra Bloom in Big Fish on Broadway.
On October 6, a new musical play based on Tim Burton’s Big Fish film opens on Broadway. The whimsical story follows the adventurous life of Edward Bloom over four decades and inspires audiences to “dream bigger.” Kate Baldwin, an Evanston native and Northwestern alum, takes on the role of Bloom’s wife, Sandra.
Michigan Avenue caught up with the Tony-nominated actress just days before beginning preview performances of the show last week.
What made you want to get involved with this particular musical? KATE BALDWIN: [Director/choreographer] Susan Stroman invited me to be a part of the first workshop [for Big Fish in fall of 2011]. She and I had worked together on a previous project, so I thought it would be fun. Also, I went back to the movie to refresh my memory because I had seen it years prior—and [I realized] it cries out to be a musical. There are so many wonderful sequences, with mermaids and giants and all that kind of stuff, which made me feel like this is one movie that adapts quite naturally to being a musical.
How did you prepare for the role of Sandra Bloom? KB: A lot of that is what I call the ‘secret actor plumbing:’ pictures that I look at, pieces of music that I listen to, things I think about in order to get the gist of this woman. She is a woman born in Alabama, in a small town. I have a very close friend who is from Georgia, and I actually had her say all my lines for me—not to mimic her accent, but just to get her flavor of ‘Southern,’ because I’m from Evanston so I definitely have a Midwestern sensibility. There’s also this book called What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should), and the author has a bunch of speeches on YouTube [that I watched].
How did your time at Northwestern and in Chicago help to shape your career? KB: I was really lucky that [during] my senior year of college, the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (10 Marriott Dr., 847-634-0200) was doing a production and cast me. I was 22 and silly and stupid and made a lot of mistakes while I was there, [but] they were really nice to me and [taught] me how to work in the theater. I was living in Roscoe Village at the time and that was really great. I feel so proud of my Chicago roots.
You’ve dabbled in TV and other mediums, but is the stage your favorite performance outlet? KB: Yes, I love that there is a live audience and that we’re creating something in front of them that disappears after we’re done—it can’t be rewound, it can’t be replayed. I think there’s something really special about the event of going to the theater, too: buying your ticket, finding your seat, seeing the lights go down. I feel like a little kid whenever I go see a show, and I hope to inspire that same sort of wonder in audiences when they come see our show.