Perspective matters. I recently attended a showing of Big Fish the Musical and was seated next to an amateur critic. At intermission, he picked apart the sets, the story, the singing, the acting, and the effects. I stood smiling as he complained about directorial choices and anything else that came to mind. When he asked what I thought, I simply said, “I think it’s sweet.”
I am not a Broadway critic. I am a Broadway lover. Like many others, I dreamed of taking a Broadway stage, but like many others, it didn’t quite work out. So I sit in the audience and allow myself to be entertained, living vicariously through the actors. And I was entertained watching Big Fish. The fantastic performances brought the larger than life characters alive and by the end, even the critic next to me was conceding that it was a great show.
Big Fish The Musical is based on Daniel Wallace’s novel of the same name and Tim Burton’s film. Edward Bloom (played brilliantly by Norbert Leo Butz) is reaching the end of his life, while his son Will (rising newcomer Bobby Steggert) attempts to discern who his dad really is. If you’re not familiar with the story, Edward has always told outlandish stories about himself and Will, serious as both a child and adult, has condemned his dad for blurring fact and fiction. With his dad dying of cancer and his own son on the way, Will desires to know who his father really is and where fact and fiction divide. Will wants to be able to pass the truth about his father onto his son.
The story jumps between the past and the present and between Ed and Will’s lives. Much of the show consists of Edward retelling his famous stories, which, like the film version, requires elaborate sets filled with equally fanciful people. As Edward’s tale is told, the audience meets a mermaid, a giant, a witch, and a werewolf.
The relationship between father and son is the heartbeat of the show, but the relationship between Edward and his wife Sandra, played by Kate Baldwin, is equally poignant. Ms. Baldwin, much like her counterpart Mr. Butz, takes on an enormous challenge playing a character from young adulthood through old age. They both do this job perfectly and with wonderful chemistry between them. The music and lyrics were the weakest part of the show, but strong performances managed to redeem them.
So, why should you see Big Fish? It is a wonderful story brought to life through fantastic acting, amazing characters, and a set to which you’ll compare every other Broadway show. You should also see it because it is, well… sweet.
* I was given tickets for the review, but I was not compensated and the opinions are my own.