Big Fish: The Musical
The Other Palace, London Until Dec 31, 2hrs 40mins
This is a family show in all senses – it has a global TV star, songs that might be from a Disney movie, and while it principally concerns the relationship between a father and son, it also involves mothers, wives and the problem of bringing up children.
It’s based on the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace and the screenplay of the 2003 Tim Burton film with Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney. The big fish in question is Edward Bloom, who left the small pond of his Alabama town to find a life and ended up as a travelling salesman. He is known for his terrible jokes and tall tales about his life – here given a nice line in bombast by ex
Frasier star Kelsey Grammer – and his frustrated son Will tries to reconcile this with the often absent father he knew before Ed dies.
‘My father talked about a lot of things he never did and did a lot of things he never talked about,’ Will remarks. Flashback scenes reveal the stories he told – full of mermaids, circus performers, a shy gay giant – and a young Ed (a charismatic Jamie Muscato) making his way in the world. The stories allow American composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa to introduce many song styles, at one point segueing from the vaudevillian Little Lamb From Alabama to syrupy love song Time Stops. Ballad Stranger neatly illustrates Will’s wonder at the child he is about to have and the father he believes he never knew. And mum Sandra’s I Don’t Need A Roof is winningly rendered by Clare Burt. There’s some energetic work from the chorus, though the small stage means that some of it is ragged around the edges in Nigel Harman’s production, and it feels as if a quirkier, more wistful tale has been hijacked by show tunes. The final song is called How It Ends: for me it was with one layer too many of schmaltz. More a minnow of a musical than a big fish – I’m afraid I wasn’t really hooked.
Matthew Seadon-Young as Will and Kelsey Grammer as Ed