BWW Review: BIG FISH is a Big Catch at Playhouse Merced

BWW Review: BIG FISH is a Big Catch at Playhouse Merced

"Be the hero of your story," Edward Bloom tells his son.

With three timelines to follow, fanciful characters and a wholehearted emotional pack, "Big Fish" the musical requires a strong hero, itself. Its lead character, Edward rarely leaves the stage. He weaves extravagant stories of his youth with present reality, which his son, Will, takes all too seriously. The ambitious script places Will's older parents as their younger selves in Edward's stories, an odd look that, once again, requires actors with a strong stage presence to suspend belief. The music is campy and sometimes memorable, the dancing fun but not all that prevalent. And so it is that the poignant soul of the show and those who carry it determine a production's success.

Andrew Burkum's enthusiastic Edward leads a glistening Playhouse Merced production with his determined "Alabama stomp" (the glistening much due to a fantastic lighting design). While Burkum and ensemble create the energy of the musical, Dianne Kocher as Edward's wife and Joe Hypes as his son take on its heart. Hypes powerful performance captivates in Will's heart-tugging efforts to reconcile truth and myth. As he faces his own future father role, Will wishes to better understand the fading-in-health Edward. Kocher's performance is no less heart wrenching when she comforts her husband in "I Don't Need a Roof." It all culminates in a beautiful finale with hope for generations to come.

Merced's production suffers from the occasional flat notes and small design flaws that often accompany community theatre, but Corey Strauss' storybook chapter scenic design and Robert Hypes' direction and casting anchor the show to the bottom of the sea, where, perhaps, a rather big fish awaits.

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BIG FISH
Playhouse Merced
Through May 22
http://www.playhousemerced.com/

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