Review Roundup: BIG FISH Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
BIG FISH opens tonight, October 6 on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. The production stars two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz as Edward Bloom, Tony Award nominee Kate Baldwin as Sandra Bloom, and Tony Award nominee Bobby Steggert as Will Bloom.
From five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, with music and lyrics by Grammy and Tony Award nominee Andrew Lippa, and a book by Grammy and BAFTA Award nominee John August, BIG FISH also features scenic design by Julian Crouch, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Donald Holder, and sound design by Jon Weston.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: "Wholesomeness gets a bad rap on Broadway these days, usually regarded as the kind of unbearably sweet and inoffensive entertainment that sophisticated theatergoers must endure while taking their conservative grandmas out for a night on the town...But Big Fish, the new musical that tattoos its heart on its arm, displays no fear in plopping its unabashed wholesomeness right in your lap. Its spirit is steeped in Rodgers and Hammerstein decency that propels an evening that's adventurous, romantic and, yeah, kinda hip. That said, the work of Andrew Lippa (score) and John August (book, based on his own screenplay of Daniel Wallace's novel) is not exactly top shelf musical theatre (although on paper Big Fish easily outclasses any original-run Broadway musical currently on the boards) but director/choreographer Susan Stroman, at the top of her game, whips this warmhearted story into a supremely imaginative and heart-tugging entertainment."
Ben Brantley, New York Times: "For a show that celebrates tall tales, "Big Fish" feels curiously stunted. Granted, this movie-inspired musical about a whopper-spinning traveling salesman, which opened on Sunday night at the Neil Simon Theater, is certainly big by most conventional measurements..."Big Fish" fails to forge the crucial connection between its characters and their fantasies. Featuring songs by Andrew Lippa and a book by John August, this musical is about one of those impossible, wonderful, embarrassing fathers whose ghosts have done so much to keep psychiatrists in business...[Susan Stroman] seems to be drawing almost randomly from her bottomless bag of tricks. Yes, her use of dancers to embody an enchanted forest and a campfire is delightful. And it's hard not to chuckle when those two-stepping elephants make a cameo appearance. But if the show is all about the need for personal myths, it has to let its leading mythmaker take charge...Not once did I feel that what I was seeing had been spawned by the teeming mind of Edward Bloom. The show's de facto theme song may advocate "be the hero" of your own life, but somehow "Big Fish" turns everyone into a local-color extra."
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: "When Edward proposes to his future wife, Sandra, hundreds of yellow daffodils sparkle against a clear blue sky.Somehow, though, the effect isn't as dazzling, or as moving, as you would hope -- particularly given the talented players involved in this production, which opened Sunday at the Neil Simon Theatre...Butz, Baldwin and Bobby Steggert, as the grownup Will, all bring a sense of genuine humanity to their roles. In the end, though, this Big Fish lacks the imagination or cohesion to reel you in like one of its hero's yarns."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "Resisting the usual Broadway tendency toward over-production, this show is perfectly scaled to the modest level of Edward's boyish daydreams. Invention, not excess, seems to be the dominant house rule, from the tight choreography, which is quick and clever and never over the top, to the primary-color projections by Benjamin Pearcy that make a comic-book universe of Julian Crouch's sets. William Ivey Long captures the playful vibe with ingenious costumes that move in unexpected ways (like the fishtail of a mermaid's silvery costume) and contribute their own magic to the storytelling (like the witches that materialize from the trees in a forest). The main thing missing from this show - and might have taken the edge off its unlikable hero and unpalatable message - is the mystical sensibility that flavors Southern storytelling. Although supposedly set in Alabama, there's not a hint here, musical or otherwise, of the traditional magic found in regional folktales. The kind of magic that might transform a selfish character like Edward Bloom into the hero of his own dreams."