Published by Oxford Karma – Read original article here.
Originally published on July 23, 2015
Lyric Theatre’s BIG FISH will leave you reeling if you take the bait
7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m., 8 p.m. Saturday
Civic Center Music Hall | Oklahoma City
Big Fish is a musical some people will call heartwarming, a family story about the triumphs and tragedies of life. Other theatergoers will call it cotton candy, a fluffy confection with no nutritional value. Either way, you have a character to root for in the show.
Lyric Theatre is giving Big Fish a colorful, fanciful production at the Thelma Gaylord Theatre that gets out of this modest musical about all that can be gotten out of it. Adam Koch’s set design and Helena Kuukka’s lighting are fluid enough to bear the many scene changes and varieties of locations – some real, others imaginary.
Based on the Daniel Wallace novel and Tim Burton film, the show is about Will Bloom’s struggle to understand his father, Edward. Although Will admires his father, he barely knows him. That’s because Edward spent his time on the road as a successful traveling salesman. He’s a hail-fellow-well-met with a quiver full of puns and corny jokes, and he’s a fabulist of the first water. His stories of encounters with witches, giants, mermaids and werewolves – among many other tall tales – enchant young Will, but the tween is a confirmed skeptic – or, as he says, a “realist.” His father, on the other hand, remains an eternal optimist. From the first song, Edward encourages Will to dream big. Edward realized as a young man that if he stayed in his hometown of Ashton, Alabama, he would be the big fish of the show’s title in a small pond.
Andrew Lippa’s score is pleasant and varied enough, and he’s an able lyricist. Edward observes that his life has been “part epic tale, part fire sale.” Lippa’s melodies can soar, and his ballads are earnest, but the production’s orchestra sounds skimpy at times. John August adapted the book from the novel and film.
Directed by Michael Baron, Lyric’s production stars David Elder as Edward, who is in almost every scene. A fine singer and dancer, Elder carries the show on his capable shoulders (and in his tap shoes; choreography is by Lyn Cramer, so you know there’ll be tap dancing).
The appealing Russell McCook plays Will. The insecurity of McCook’s Will contrasts with the bonhomie of Elder’s Edward. At the end of the first act, Will happens upon what seems to be a deep, dark secret about his father. I won’t reveal how the issue is resolved.
Emily Skinner plays Will’s mother and Edward’s wife. She seems almost a fleeting presence. Rachael Barry is Will’s pregnant wife.
You’d be hard-pressed to name a more self-indulgent character than Edward. He loves talking about himself. This behavior leads Will to misunderstand his father’s motives. What the son sees as attempts to impress, the father means as opportunities to inspire.
The show’s creators intend for the ending to bring on the tears. Whether it opens your ocular spigots depends on if you buy into musicals of this ilk. If it does, enjoy a good cry. If it doesn’t, welcome to the club.