BWW Review: BIG FISH Proves Our Dreams Begin Where the Pavement Ends
Everyone has dreams they wish to have fulfilled during their lifetime. And as it turns out, the energy we put into fueling our passion to achieve them can take us in directions we could never have anticipated, yet become so necessary in obtaining whatever goal we have set for ourselves or influencing how others see us. Such is the case in the Broadway musical BIG FISH, a heartfelt, powerful, and truly magical musical about fathers, sons, and the stories that we use to define our identities.
Lyricist Andrew Lippa describes BIG FISH as "a love story about father and his love for his son and a love story about a man and his love for his wife." His writing counterpart, John August, explains the story as the "impossibly epic, elaborate, ornate story that couldn't possibly be true, but you really wish it were true." After all, wouldn't you love to have a life filled with witches, mermaids, circus performers and even a werewolf to keep you company?
The BIG FISH story centers on charismatic Edward Bloom, whose impossibly fanciful stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son, Will, soon to become a father himself. 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 spun to enchant his life as an on-the-road salesman.
As the musical jumps back and forth is time, we learn how Edward Bloom (Will Shupe, who brings great enthusiasm as well as incredible performance skills to the role) lived life on the edge as a teenager, and how by chance he met his wife Sandra (Conchita Belisle Newman) as she auditioned for the circus (in the incredibly cute number "Little Lamb from Alabama" performed with Ashley Maimes and Megan Tisler), and then went on to work long hours away from his family as a traveling salesman. But his fanciful tales become more difficult for his son Will (Marcello Silva) to believe as time passes, so that when Will as a young adult (Andrew Allen) learns he is soon to become a father of his own son, he sets out to prove once and for all that the tall tales passed down from his father were nothing more than wishful thinking and fairy tales. But how do you separate the truth from fiction?
As Will investigates his father's life, we are entertained with 18 enchanting songs performed by a live orchestra led beautifully by Musical Director Mazie Rudolph on keyboards. The tonal quality is so fantastic, you will truly believe there are three times as many musicians and instruments as listed in the program: Lucas Miller (Drums), Kevin Hart and Art Gibson (Bass), Cavit Celayir-Monezis (Bassoon), Liz Kim (Flute) and Andy Moresi (Guitar). This group never missed a note or a beat, making the entire production shine in all its magical as well as musical glory.
Other standout performers include Natasha Bloom as Jenny, Edward's first love, Tori Cusack as the Mermaid, Kevin Ellis as Circus Frontman Amos, Savannah Leigh as the Witch who tells Edward his future before he is really ready to hear it, Jen Ridgway as Will's pregnant wife Josephine, Jared Price and Philip McBride as his lifelong buddies Don and Zachey, and stilt-walking Christopher Spangler as Karl the Giant. Each performer adds their own special talent to every role.
Congrats to director Fred Helsel for his expertise in presenting BIG FISH as a family-friendly musical, moving at a quick pace with much love and joy evident between his actors and characters. The rest of his creative team, choreographer Becky Castells, music and vocal director Mazie Rudolph, production designer Seth Kamenow, lighting designer Lauren Wemischner, sound designer Kevin Kahm, costumer Ken Patton, and stage manager Jerry Blackburn all work well together as a team, with the finished product one not to be missed.
Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and the Columbia Motion Picture written by John August, with music and lyrics by Tony nominee Andrew Lippa, BIG FISH is now onstage at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center through May 21, 2017. Tickets are available online at www.simi-arts.org or by calling the box office at 805-583-7900 or at the box office at 3050 E. Los Angeles Avenue between Noon and 6:00 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays. Tickets are $25 for Adults, $22 for Seniors 60 and above and Students and $18 for Children 12 & Under. Student Rush Tickets are available at 10 minutes prior to curtain for $10 each.
Photos by JON NEFTALI PHOTOGRAPHY