Review Roundup: BIG FISH at The Other Palace - What Did the Critics Think?

By: Nov. 09, 2017
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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...

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: 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.

But Grammer is the big, er, fish in an overcrowded pond. The heart of the piece, in theory, is parenthood: Edward and Will's prickly relationship, with their respective wives Sandra and Josephine acting as peacemakers; and Josephine's pregnancy forcing Will to examine his own impending role as father.

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!

Grammer himself emerges with flying colours, albeit he appears so bronzed and healthy, he makes you want to contemplate a winter break, not life's brevity.

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: Anyone drawn to this musical by the prospect of seeing Frasier's Kelsey Grammer is in for a bit of a shock: although Grammer is the pivot of the story and the best thing in the show, he is off stage for long periods. For the most part we get a mix of father-son story and spiralling fairytale that never achieves the moment of ecstasy we look for in a musical.

The show has a complex pedigree. Daniel Wallace's 1998 novel and Tim Burton's 2003 film jointly inspired a short-lived Broadway musical in 2013. John August, who wrote the screenplay and the musical book, and Andrew Lippa, who did the music and lyrics, have tinkered with the Broadway format but the story remains essentially the same.

Ann Treneman, The 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?

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: 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. Frasier fans will be disappointed to find that the charismatic Grammer is frequently offstage, and there's a certain irony in his exuding such sun-kissed health in a show where his character is meant to be at death's door.

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: The problems are all structural. The first act, in particular, seems to have too many songs of too many contrasting textures. The duet in which Will's wife and mother Sandra (lovely Clare Burt) sing of the challenges of parenthood is tender and touching but seems to belong to a different show than the sentimental "Daffodils", in which Ed and Sandra declare their love.

But it is Grammer who glues the show together and you miss him when he is not there. He does all the things you'd expect of him - exhibiting charisma, charm, and superb comic timing. Then, just when you least expect it, his face dissolves, his voice cracks and he reduces you to tears. It is a five-star performance in a frustrating show.

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