FAMILY MUSICAL: BIG FISH: Review by Robin Gorman Newman
BIG FISH, a new Broadway musical directed and choreographed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman (Contact, The Producers, The Scottsboro Boys), with music and lyrics by Grammy and Tony Award nominee Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party, The Addams Family), and a book by Grammy and BAFTA Award nominee John August (Frankenweenie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), BIG FISH just opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre (250 West 52nd Street).
It stars two-time Tony Award® winner Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Catch Me If You Can) as Edward Bloom, Tony Award® nominee Kate Baldwin (Giant, Finian’s Rainbow) as Sandra Bloom, Tony Award® nominee Bobby Steggert (Giant, Ragtime) as Will Bloom, Krystal Joy Brown (Leap Of Faith) as Josephine Bloom, Anthony Pierini (Mary Poppins) and Zachary Unger (Chaplin) alternating as Young Will, Ryan Andes as Karl, Ben Crawford as Don Price, and Tony Award® nominee Brad Oscar as Amos Callowa.
BIG FISH centers on Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman who lives life to its fullest by spinning tales to enhance his day to day existence, Edward’s larger-than-life stories of mermaids, giants and more delight everyone around him – most of all, his devoted wife Sandra. But their journalist son Will, about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales.
There is much to like about BIG FISH — particularly the bravura performance of Butz, who never ceases to deliver, and the fantastical set design/staging – inventive theatrical bells ‘n whistles that are a feast for the eyes, if not the emotional senses. And, that is a big problem with the show. There is so much schtick in Act I that we don’t feel an emotional connection to the characters. Part of the fault lies with the score that until you get about an hour into it and Butz sings the beautiful Time Stops, one number blends into the next, and even my 10 year failed to be captivated. There are some gorgeous effects, and Stroman is at the top of her game in that regard. Act II pulls on your heartstrings, but we knew from the beginning that Bloom was a gonner, and any discerning theatre goer could surmise that the plot would ultimately come full circle with Will, himself a father, sharing with pride about the father he lost but eventually made peace with. I adored Butz as I always do…and the rest of the cast does a fine job as well…..but even though my eyes welled up in Act II, I yearned for Butz to bring the house down. Fight the Dragons in Act II is a wonderful song and an endearing duet between father and young son….but despite all the showy earlier tunes, there was no real show stopper for Butz who is king of the show stoppers.
BIG FISH has stunning scenic design by Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Julian Crouch, costume design by six-time Tony Award winner William Ivey Long, exquisite ilighting design by two-time Tony Award winner Donald Holder, sound design by Los Angeles Drama Critics Award winner Jon Weston, projection design by Drama Desk Award winner Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions, wig and hair design by Paul Huntley, make-up design by Angelina Avallone, musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, orchestrations by Tony Award winner Larry Hochman and dance arrangements by Sam Davis.
You will be touched. You will be tickled. You will be wowed by some delightful over the top spectacles. You will be charmed by Butz for sure. But, somehow despite all that, BIG FISH doesn’t hold enough water.
Tickets for BIG FISH are available at the Neil Simon box office or at Ticketmaster.com (866-870-2717). Visit www.bigfishthemusical.com