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Theater Review: Big Fish

Photo 1Big Fish

Written by John August
Directed by Susan Stroman
Composing by Andrew Lipps
Scenic Design by Julian Crouch
Costumes by William Ivey Long
Lighting by Donad Holder
Sound Design by Jon Weston
Projection Design by Benjamin Pearcy
Running time: 2 Hr, 40 Min.
Principle Cast: Norbert Leo Butz, Kate Baldwin, Bobby Steggert, Krystal Joy Brown, Anthony Pierini, Zachary Unger

Tweetable Review: Big Fish is transformative &  creatively overwhelming as counterpart to its original. 

A rollicking fantasy set in the American South, BIG FISH centers on the charismatic Edward Bloom, whose impossible stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son Will.  As Edward’s final chapter approaches, Will embarks on his own journey to find out who his father really is, revealing the man behind the myth, the truth from the tall tales.  Overflowing with heart, humor and imagination, BIG FISH is a tribute to the power of family, dreaming big and the unpredictable adventure of life itself.

554651_436835086409961_939389081_nFrom the opening moments of Big Fish, one gets the sense that this newest version (still penned by its original author) is looking to bring the overzealous World of Tim Burton’s Edward Bloom (which was, at times, overzealous in Tim Burton’s version) into a more concentrated and focused setting; ultimately allowing emotional and character response to bond easier. By pulling out the fringe stories and what was muddled in the screen adaptation, and focusing on a centralized moving push closer to Edward Bloom, audiences are treated to a minimalism within the overall real World that helps to shape a focus on the powerful Father/Son dynamic that is so important to Big Fish, while also helping to enlarge the imagination of Edward Bloom’s World. Songs have been used to help propel the storyline thoroughly and with plenty of motivation.  While many who are into musicals will find that Lippa’s score isn’t extremely catchy (then again, how many of said composers’ scores are), Big Fish is one of the composer’s strongest outings in a while. The creator of such scores asThe Wild Party and The Addams Family has now crafted a beautifully intricate composition in nature but expansive & multi-genre in execution. Country, Lyrical, Jazz Blues, R&B – these are all present and more.

Audiences who are fans of the original film material may be skeptical that the all-too-important special effects will suffer from the transfer here, but the stage version of Big Fish is quite the opposite. Edward Bloom’s World has been fully and completely realized, even going so far as to formulate and design elements that are (just like the imagination of its central character) one-of-a-kind and simply astonishing – this isn’t a copy and paste of Big Fish’s film version but an enhancement. Unfortunately, to give any specifics or highlights would simply ruin the allure and surprise of this show so I’ll stop.

Photo 3Characters have been brought to extraordinary life by veteran Broadway star Norbert Leo Butz in the Edward Bloom role. As his third film adapted role (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Catch Me If You Can), Leo Butz is as big and enchanting as the show of Big Fish is itself and seems born to play this role. Bobby Steggert  will grow on you the further the story goes and displays a wonderfully strong vocal instrument and skepticism about the character that is appreciated. Kate Baldwin as Bloom’s wife is nothing short of wonderful. The rest of Big Fish’s cast is as strong as ever in multi-character ensemble roles that give a wonderful peak into the life of Edward Bloom – the actors are well above par and give a nice immerse to Bloom’s World.

Overall, Big Fish is an accomplishment unto itself. The entire creative staff have taken a previous material and adapted a worthy companion, furthermore, taking the experience to another level.  The marvel of Susan Stroman is that she has managed take a John August script, the visually imaginative World of Tim Burton and intellectual compositions from Andrew Lippa to mount a completely unique and transformative musical theatre experience that will capture the hearts of any theatre goer. I’m not one to go completely head-over-heels about Awards but it will truly be a shame if this show isn’t up for multiple Tonys come this time next year.

Above is excerpt – for full review, check out Fresh Roasted Film’s blog HERE

Fresh Roasted Ratings:
Overall Rating: Highly Recommended
When: Through May 5
Where: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St.
Tickets: $33-$100, 800-775-2000 and broadwayinchicago.com

~ Matt Miles, 24/7 Contributor
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films 

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