Review Roundup: BIG FISH Fights the Dragons in London
Kelsey Grammer stars in Big Fish THE MUSICAL as Edward Bloom, alongside Clare Burt and more. Based on the novel Big Fish by Daniel Wallace and the Columbia Pictures film screenplay by John August, this new production will be the London premiere of the musical and also marks Kelsey's first time on the London stage.
Meet Edward Bloom, an ordinary man, and an extraordinary father. He has always told his son tall tales filled with beauty, love and imagination but when his son confronts him about what is make believe, they both discover that the truth is more wonderful than fiction.
BIG FISH THE MUSICAL is a love story that will take you on an exhilarating and heart-warming journey deep into the heart of what it means to be human. Blending fairy-tale, romance and adventure it celebrates the true meaning of life, and reminds us that the love for our family and friends will live on within them, long after we have gone.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld UK: The big draw of the London production is Frasier himself, AKA Kelsey Grammer. It's undoubtedly a thrill seeing him live on an intimate stage - the charisma, swagger, sonorous voice and elastic facial expressions. He's clearly having a ball as Daddy Bloom, delivering the freewheeling jokes with panache and negotiating between the man's robust personality and increasing physical frailty. The singing is rather more variable - it's the younger cast members who fare best with Andrew Lippa's score.
Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard: Nigel Harman's efficient production is much more modest than the Broadway staging by Susan Stroman - and without an abundance of visual distractions, too heavy a burden falls on Lippa's quaint score and cutesy lyrics. Though it's only fair to say that I noticed quite a few of the people around me weeping by the end, Big Fish strikes me as too stepped in sentimentality to reel in most audiences.
Ann Treneman, The Sunday Times: Grammer, basically, seems to be playing himself and is very good, as is a perfectly pitched Clare Burt as his wife. Also of note is the younger Edward, Jamie Muscato, who really can hold a stage. For all of that, Big Fish never feels quite natural. The numbers arrive, breathless and usually exuberant, but often they don't feel linked. Is the fish too big? The pond too small? Or (whisper it) is it all just too contrived?
Tim Bano, The Stage: The exuberant Grammer is a great match for the arch, uptightness of Seadon-Young and it's a pleasure to listen to his strong, precise voice. Dean Nolan and Forbes Masson offer good comic support and Clare Burt is warm-hearted as Edward's wife Sandra, although she is underused in what is a very male-dominated production. While Tom Rogers' hospital set is quite bland, and a bit wooden and wobbly, Nigel Harman's direction brings a grinding tension between the fantasy worlds of Bloom's stories and the serious things that life throws in the way - cancer, parenthood, death.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: Nigel Harman's production has shrewdly abandoned the spectacle that supposedly stifled the Broadway version and presents us with more homespun magic arising, in Tom Rogers's design, from a hospital bedroom setting. But in a musical one looks for memorable songs and Lippa's score falls sadly short. There's a cheery wartime number, Red, White and True, with just a hint of the Andrews Sisters, and I was touched by Clare Burt's rendering, as Edward's wife, of a song signalling her marital devotion. Otherwise there is little to lodge in the mind in a middling musical that fails to exploit, in the manner of Follies, Edward's split selves, and that doesn't give us nearly enough Grammer.
Neil Norman, Sunday Express: Andrew Lippa's songs Fight The Dragons, Daffodils, Red, White And True and the powerful This River Between Us are standouts in a generally terrific score. Grammer is the heart and soul of the production, a kind of big?hearted, benign version of Big Daddy. Of the cast around him, Jamie Muscato, Laura Baldwin and Forbes Masson make notable contributions. Charming, imaginative, realistic, romantic and with unexpected depths, Big Fish hooked me from the start.
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: This is an evening battered in schmaltz, which reaches its emetic zenith in the first-half closing number Daffodils. The younger version of Grammer's now-hospitalised Edward Bloom vows adoration to his future wife Sandra, chanced upon while working in a circus: "Let's build a world of daffodils that never fades and never dies," he croons, "I see the answer in your eyes..."; director Nigel Harman (formerly of EastEnders) decks the scene with so many daffs it looks like he has been inspired by The Day of the Triffids. Run, folks, run!