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Grade 12 student directs Lake Cowichan Secondary musical ‘Big Fish’

Student director Arabella Costello looks to the community’s help for prop donations

Lake Cowichan Secondary will soon be reeling in community theatre lovers for their production of the musical Big Fish, which will be adapted from the 1998 novel, and the 2003 Tim Burton film.

The LCS production will be performed for the public on June 17 and 18 at 6:30 p.m.

“We will also be performing for the school in the afternoons those same days and will also perform select scenes for Palsson’s Grade 3 orientation day,” said LCS theatre teacher Diana Lindstrom.

While Lindstrom is overseeing the musical and the logistics it is Grade 12 student Arabella Costello who is donning the director’s cap for her second year in a row. If that isn’t impressive enough she is also the production’s choreographer and singing coach. Costello won the Cowichan Musical Society Award in Musical Theatre, as well as the Laura Harris Award for Consistent Excellence Performance at this year’s Cowichan Musical Festival Highlight concert on March 4. Costello will be in Fort St. John from June 2 to 6 as the provincial representative for Intermediate Musical Theatre.

READ MORE: Cowichan Music Festival Highlights Concerts burst with tremendous talent

“I directed last year’s school musical and it was very fulfilling, and the end result was better than I thought. So, I was more confident to do something bigger and this musical is exactly that,” said Costello. “This opportunity means so much because I get to share my love for theatre and performing with others in so many different ways, both with the class, and the community.”

Costello will be directing 12 Grade 9 to 12 students in the school’s small cast edition of Big Fish. When Edward Bloom (Melissa Bell) becomes ill, his son, William (Bella Robinson) travels to be with him. William has a strained relationship with Edward because his father has always told exaggerated stories about his life and does so even on his deathbed. When William, who is a journalist, starts to investigate his father’s tales, he begins to understand the man and his penchant for storytelling. To add to the many hats she is already wearing Costello will also be paying the role of Edward’s wife Sandra.

“I am performing in this musical as well as directing because the class is so small, and this is my last high school show, so it was important that I also perform,” said Costello. “Getting closer with the cast is definitely one of the best parts but I think the rehearsals feel more like fun than work to the cast because we are all so close.”

Costello and her cast have been preparing for Big Fish since early February, and for it to make an even bigger splash Costello is looking for donations of household items and clothing that would fit high school bodies such as cheerleader uniforms, a witch’s and wedding dress, hospital gowns and circus costumes. Donations should be labelled they are for the theatre and can be dropped off at the LCS office during regular hours. Those wishing to donate can also contact Costello at

“We need mostly average clothing for everyday characters, and we need basic pieces to help us set up a typical house scene, like a clock. I’ll be making lots of props and sets for the musical as well,” said Costello. “It means so much to the cast to receive these donations, but to me especially because it shows that people are still interested in the arts. I hope people who donate will come out to support live theatre.”

“We are also currently receiving money donations to help support us with the cost of the licence, musical rights and production costs,” said Lindstrom. “To date, we have received local money donations from Ally Earle of ReMax, The Kinettes, LCS, PAC, A&W, and Forest Co-Op. Mountain Man Ice Cream will also be donating buckets of ice cream to sell. We appreciate their support and look forward to seeing them at our performances.”

The two performances of Big Fish will run out of the LCS theatre, and playgoers may use the entrance at the far end of the school near the arts building. There will be 120 seats available for each show, tickets are $10, and go on sale mid-May. Tickets can either be purchased in advance online, at the school office, or with cash at the door depending on seat availability in the theatre. Doors open at 6 p.m. and there will be a brief intermission between the two acts.

“We have an enthusiastic, hard working group of students who have embraced the story, the acting, dancing and singing every day since early February,” said Lindstrom. “They are counting down the days to perform this popular musical to family, friends and community — and the fact that they have had the rare opportunity to be directed by one of their peers is a rewarding experience they will all remember. We have lots to be proud of, and lasting memories to come.”

“I hope that the community will come support the show because the cast has worked so hard, and the story is so beautiful,” said Costello. “I think that people will recognize the talent that all the kids have.”