(All photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio)
Written by Patrick Chavis
Is it a tall tale or a story larger-than-life? Big Fish the Musical blends these concepts together over at the Chance Theater, in the stage vision adapted from Tim Burton’s popular movie from 2003.
Big Fish is set in Alabama and centers around the relationship between a father named Edward Bloom (played by Jeff Lowe) and his son Will, who is played by two actors portraying him as a kid and an adult. Kid Will is played by Jason Brewer, and Older Will is played by Jared Price. Their entire relationship is centered on his father’s stories, which take the form of tall tales (think Paul Bunyan or John Henry). When Will discovers his father has cancer, he goes on a mission to discover the true story of his father’s life before he’s gone for good.
The story is really the star when it comes to the show. While some of the songs can be pretty touching, it is the connection the audience makes between the father and all of the amazing mythical, and regular individuals we meet throughout that makes the play special. At its core it is a story about believing, and how our beliefs shape us as people.
The stage design by Bradley Kane is a full wooden paneled stage with neon blue lights set on the bottom of the stage in order to symbolize the ponds and rivers of Alabama. I would describe the design as simple, but technical in just the right spots.
Jeff Lowe plays the central character of Edward Bloom as charming, and really manages to pull off Bloom as an obnoxious, but lovable guy with a good heart. His performance is a textbook example of someone who really understands a character and manifests it on stage. I’ve seen the movie version, and I’ve seen bigger productions of the musical on stage. Lowe made this character his own. The lighter and more understated performance of Edward Bloom really worked for me.
She isn’t in the show very long, but I really enjoyed the performance from Rachel Oliveros Catalano as the Witch. The choreography used to bring her onto the scene and her singing during the song, “I Know What You Want” was one of the highlights of the show for me.
While I’ve never really been a fan of the songs in this musical, there are some stand outs. “Be a Hero” is a prime example. The creator must have known it because the show starts and ends with it.
What really works in this show are the dramatic acting moments and the fantastic dance choreography from Kelly Todd that’s folksy and a little goofy. The Chance Theater goes all out with the dance choreography, and it really does enrich the show.
I quite enjoyed Tim Burton’s Big Fish when it came out. Honestly, in my eyes, it was the film that reignited his career as I was pretty disappointed in most of the new work he had accomplished by that point. The Chance’s rendition of this musical brings it back in a great way. While it makes the story a little simpler, it also makes for a better show.
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