Big Fish: The Mu­si­cal

The Other Palace, Lon­don Un­til Dec 31, 2hrs 40mins

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE - Mark Cook

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

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