Big Fish on Broadway

Big Fish Playbill and Ticket

Although Big Fish has been only the second Broadway show we saw in the past days I’ll write about it first because they officially open on Broadway tonight!

And while most of my crying during Once (the first show we saw) was about “Oh my gosh, it’s soooo good. It’s soooo good it restores my faith in musical theatre!” my crying here was less about how good it was (after Once the expectations were pretty high, though), which of course it was, too, but more about its actual sadness. And oh yeah – it was sad. And beautiful. And sad again. And, Lord, it was good! (and sad again. and beautiful. and …)

To start: I kind of was (and still am) obsessed with only one little riff Norbert Leo Butz (playing Edward Bloom) does in Moving too fast from Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years (which Seth Rudetsky talks about in one of his videos around 3:40 to 4:15), so seeing him perform in Big Fish was kind of a big deal.
Next: I haven’t seen the movie or read the book. So I was a complete Big Fish-Newbie.
I’m not very keen on theatre productions (be they with or without music) displaying a lot of stuff on stage. Costume-wise, set-wise, fancy effects – that kind of things, you know.

And that was my first thought about Big Fish, when in the witch scene the ensemble-members start moving and that makes the trees look like their roots are moving and people in the audience were applauding. I’m not really into applauding for ‘computer tricks’. Along that the show offers a huge repertoire of bigger and smaller effects I really don’t wanna spoil, but let’s just say: Yes, of course there is a giant and there are quite a few super nice video animations that work great as a set. And while the show went on I realized as little as I like this ‘over the top’-stuff (as I want to call it) in general I really (really. REALLY) liked it in Big Fish. After all it’s a story about dreaming big and about imagination, so it really calls for imagining things and helping a audience to dream big. So I made officially peace with it.

And it was worth it! Wow! Not only is Norbert Leo Butz a phenomenal actor in that show – he really gets to show off a lot. Going from the old, dying man to the young, active version of that very same man in a second without giving the audience a chance to doubt that chance or one or the other interpretation is accomplishment I’ve never seen before and believe me or not: I’ve seen a lot.
Earlier that day when I met my best friend and I was telling him about the show I said: If that doesn’t win him a Tony Award I’ll do something crazy – I’m not settling on what I’ll do, but I’ll think of something when the time arrives. And I’ll stand by my word.

Next on: Kate Baldwin. Boy, she is great as well. She can play the taken back wife that gives all the stage to her husband, the caring wife when he’s close to his death and when the circus scene comes along when she ‘auditions’ with two of her girl friends for a part in that circus she’s so adorable young, naive and very true to life that you’d never get the idea of laughing at her in that rather corny trio-singing-dance-number they do.

Along with the two of them there are two versions of their son Will. The young one portrayed by Zachary Unger who gets to say many funny and precocious comebacks to his father’s over the top-stories seems to merge into the older version played by Bobby Steggert who is singing two of the most touching numbers of the show (Stranger was the first time I fought my tears this evening. It was hard but I was successful).

These actors are accompanied by a number of great ensemble-performers taking smaller and larger parts in the ‘stories’ Edward Bloom tells along the way. (among them I really, really liked Ciara Renée as the Witch)

About the music: I really like The Addams Family and I love Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party. That being said it’s safe to say that I LOVE the music of Big Fish. I literally can’t wait for a recording to come out (which hopefully will happen rather sooner than later although it’s not even announced yet). Sadly I haven’t heard so much music of so many different styles that I can’t remember exactly what the music was like in general, I’d need to listen to a recording or something to write a real discription (but: I remember that I really loved Stranger, I know what you want sung by the Witch and Fight the Dragons. – especially the last one is an extremely beautiful song!). But the sound of that music goes really well with the direction (or better: the other way round), one thing suits the other. Susan Stroman’s direction kind of seems to be an absolute necessity of dealing with the music. I repeat myself but: Music and direction seem to be a dream team over there.

And before I write another paragraph about how beautiful and great everything was, only thing I really want to say: I am so grateful I had the opportunity to see it already (thanks to my mom here, for the trip and the company) and everyone else – please, go see it. Or if you can’t go because you’re in good old Europe or something: At least you and youtube the trailer and some songs they put online!

Read you soon!

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