BWW Review: BIG FISH at Off Broadway Theatre
Reviewed by Reg Michaels
I was a little apprehensive about seeing the NZ Premiere of Big Fish, a new Broadway Musical. I remember seeing the movie and I enjoyed that, but often the translation from screen to stage, or vice versa is a challenging one. You go along most likely because you have seen the movie, and you often have more expectations than you normally would have and the more you expect from something, the greater the disappointment.
I was intrigued to see how the producers would breathe life into this and they have crafted a show that takes you on a bittersweet journey that is incredibly moving. And yes, you will cry. I am slightly annoyed at them for making me cry in public, I like to keep up my tough guy reputation...but I could not hold back. My companion for the evening blamed the tissue in his hand on "hay fever" but I know he is a liar. Once again, award-winning designer Alan Wyatt (along with Director Anthony Mitchell's vision) has done a marvellous job. The stage at PTC is a tricky space to work in, especially with a large cast, and Wyatt is a master of making his sets balance perfectly within the space and the cast. Costume designer Stephanie Parker has done a stellar with her wardrobe, lots of colour and "Alabama pop" in places, especially the circus. Matt Johnston fulfils the show with his sensitive and delicate lighting design.
Let's talk about the performances. Daniel Chasemore and Merrin Cavel were absolutely outstanding. Without giving too much away, they bring so much heart to their roles and their relationship so much so that the audience was taken on a real rollercoaster ride. They commit 100 % to their roles, and there are some gorgeous moments where you will be moved to tears. If you aren't, you are an Ice Queen.
Joel McGeorge was also another standout as Karl the Giant. One of my favourite moments in the show was when Chasemore was standing directly under McGeorge in their first confrontation, and McGeorge lifted his arm above Chasemore's head, pointed to the door, and told him to "leave him alone". Chasemore looked absolutely tiny and it was so effective! The giant was one of the roles I was most curious about how PTC would present, and they aced this.
Sharon Hewlett as Ringmaster Amos was fabulous, the greatest showman indeed! She is such a strong presence on stage and always makes the most of everything.
The show gets a little burst of electricity when she makes her bold entrance. Sean Macfarlane plays the pompous, arrogant Don Price very well indeed and another highlight was seeing strong ensemble members like Kane Welsh (he always draws your attention when he is performing) Meg Hargraves and Bride Dixon as the Little Lambs, and Taylor Nowell as Zacky Price
The whole ensemble should be very proud of themselves, their vocals are strong and their movement is well executed. Director Anthony Mitchell, for his first musical at the helm, has placed together a show that will move you, and then suddenly..move you again.
Together with his colleagues Griffin Jenkins (musical director) and Natasha van Etten (choreographer), they have done a beautiful job. They are very blessed indeed to have the extraordinary talent that they do on that stage to work with. There is ample foreshadowing of how the story ends right from the opening scene, so you do expect what is to follow but the creative team manages to craft the show in a way that makes you smile, laugh, cry and surprise you as well. Tissues recommended.
Papakura Theatre Company
17th November - 1st December
Off Broadway Theatre
41 Elliot Street Papakura