Based on the novel “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythical Proportions”written by Daniel Wallace, and the movie “Big Fish”written by John August (1998) , the Broadway musical that came into Chicago several years ago (2013) before Broadway, has now landed in , of all places, Munster, Indiana. The landing must be considered a spectacular one, because this production is far superior to what we saw downtown. Directed with great care and feeling by William Pullinsi, this story about a “story-teller”, instead of all the glitz and high tech that the Broadway budget allows for, this production concentrates on the values of the original story, dealing with the relationship between a father and his son.
This is a pure fantasy tale! But, if one truly looks deep into the words of the story and the music by Andrew Lippa, we find that behind all the tall tales and wild adventures of our hero, traveling salesman Edward Bloom, (an amazing job by Stef Tovar, who just keeps showing his ability to work his own magic handling roles in musicals) there are some other stories that have great meaning for those who he met or encountered in his lifetime.
His son, Will ( played as a youngster by Nate Becker and later, as an adult by Nathan Gardner, who also “knocks it out of the park”), finds that with his own child coming, he needs to resolve all of the stories that his father shared with him, once and for all.
The story deals with Bloom’s life during his youth and the present as we begin at the site of his son’s wedding, and then travel back into the past for the fantasy tales that he told his son during those very formative years. Edward, facing cancer and future death, has not told his family nor his son who is about to get married. We are then taken on the ride of our lifetimes, back into the fantasy world of Bloom, and his encounters with a witch (played to perfection by the amazing Bethany Thomas), a giant (deftly handled by John Stemberg), his first love, Jenny Hill (Rachel Sparrow), the girl he marries, Sandra (the adorable Colette Todd), the ringmaster of the circus he joins (the always reliable Norm Boucher) and a host of others.
Son, Will, now married to Josephine (the lovely Callie Johnson) seeks the truth so that he will be able to face his future child with facts over fantasy and what he finds during his search will open your eyes to what Edward Bloom truly saw and experienced in his life. This is truly an ensemble that works very hard, doing scads of costumes changes (along with character changes) using the original Broadway costumes. By the way, they seem to work better in this production as well.
The choreography by Linda Fortunato is amazingly slick as always, under the direction of William Underwood, the music is never overpowering. There are no standout songs, as each tune is designed to move the story along, which I find wonderful. “Time Stops”, “Daffodils” and “Start Over” are the songs that truly stand out from the others. Richard and Jacqueline Penrod have designed a very workable set. Again, nothing as large scale as the Broadway production, but just the right recipe for what Pullinsi has created. Guy Rhodes handled the lighting design, R & D, the fight choreography, Brittney O’Keefe, the props, Barry G. Funderburg, the sound, and Kevin Barthel, the hair and wigs. As I said earlier, these are the original Broadway costumes (William Ivey Long) but local costumer Brenda Winstead, made them fitting for this production.
The ensemble is made up of:Matthias Austin,Isaac Jankowski, Ann Delaney, Theo Moss, John Koch, Reneisha Jenkins, Amanda Compton, Caitlin Borek, Julie Baird, John Marshall , Jr., Nathan Mittleman, Henry McGinnis, Kayla Kennedy, and a special note, filling in for injured James Nedrund, Brian Duncan (who is also the dance/fight captain). Hard working performers who make this all come to be!
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
There are some extra performances, check out www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com
Tickets range from $40-$44 (a bargain for theater this powerful) and can be purchased by calling the box office at 800-511-1552 or at 219-836-3255 or online at www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com
The Theatre At The Center is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, just over the Illinois Indiana border, only 30 minutes or so from the loop with lots of free parking and in Indiana you can fill your tank for less, smokers can save on smokes and there are lots of places to grab a bite in the area.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Big Fish” This is one you will want to see.