Chicago Theatre Review
The Catch of the Fall Broadway Season
If opening night is any indication, the next big hit on Broadway this October is bound to be this bewitching musical version of Daniel Wallace’s novel that tells the story of the strained relationship between a father and his grown-up son. The stress reaches a peak between Edward Bloom and his son Will on the boy’s wedding day and continues until the two finally reconcile on Edward’s deathbed. This new Broadway bound show is a melodic journey to understanding and acceptance that touches the heart, warms the soul and enlightens the mind.
This new musical, with a new book by the prolific screenwriter, John August (who also penned the film version’s screenplay) and a gorgeous score by “Addams Family” composer, Andrew Lippa, is lovingly directed and choreographed by the Tony Award-winning Susan Stroman, whose work was last seen here in the Chicago pre-Broadway tryout of “The Producers.” This creative triumvirate provides the foundation for a beautiful show that celebrates the genius of the storyteller’s imagination. Filled with both lovely, heartrending ballads (“Time Stops,” “Daffodils” and “I Don’t Need a Roof”), as well as eye-popping, intricately choreographed production numbers (“The God’s Honest Truth,” “Red. White and True”), this musical speaks to the entire family. The show’s creative team, including Julian Crouch’s magnificent scenic design full of wood and water, supported by Benjamin Pearcy’s extraordinary projections (look for humorous touches, such as after the town floods), and William Ivey Long’s colorful, inventive costumes (the witches who emerge from the tree roots, for instance) all meld together nicely making this musical a wonder to behold.
A great deal of this show’s success rests with the smart casting of multiple Tony Award-winner Norbert Leo Butz as Edward Bloom. His youthful character, boundless energy and sheer likability is the essence of this production. His scenes with lovely Kate Baldwin as Sandra, the love of his life, are honest and profoundly perfect. Butz is touching and compassionate in his scenes with little Zachary Unger as young Will, especially in their duet, “Fight the Dragons.” And with Broadway’s Bobby Steggert as older Will, Butz forms a partnership that’s strong and truthful. Steggert handsomely evolves before our eyes as he discovers the mysteries and motivation behind his father’s tall tales, right up to the final number, “What’s Next?”
And what is next? Perhaps a bit of scene tightening, maybe a trim of some musical numbers, but that’s exactly why smart producers provide out-of-town tryouts. This production won’t see the Great White Way until early Fall, but it looks and sounds wonderful as it is right now in Chicago. This “Big Fish” is a keeper!
by Colin Douglas
Presented April 19-May 5 by Broadway in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph Street, Chicago.
Tickets are available at the Broadway Ticket Line, 800-775-2000, or by going to www.BroadwayinChicago.com.
Additional information about this and other shows can be found at www.theatreinchicago.com,