Big Fish The Musical Review

The Plot

Likeable charmer Edward Bloom is a romantic larger than life figure with a rare gift for storytelling, but as his son embarks on his own family life he struggles to separate fact from fantasy, hoping to figure out who his father really is beneath all his fantastical tales before it’s too late.

The Good

Frasier star Kelsey Grammer marks his west end debut with a pitch perfect performance as the affable older Edward Bloom. His deep charismatic voice, armed with a slight southern drawl is a perfect source of narration. He perfectly ties together the various strands of the story, intertwining fantasy and reality seamlessly as he sets the scene for the rest of the cast of young musical stars. It’s simply hard to imagine any actor better suited to the role as Grammer magnificently encapsulates the gruff bluster, flamboyant showmanship and poignant romanticism that makes Edward Bloom such an endearing hero.

Credit for the astonishing success of the show goes of course to the creative team and original author, but the impressively versatile cast deserve perhaps the biggest praise. Often playing multiple roles they make it easy for audiences to be swept away in the charming fantasy world of Edward Bloom. It would be unfair to single out individual cast members as each member of the well-chosen ensemble delivers flawless vocal and well-choreographed performances.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to this new production is that it succeeds in adding new music and a fresh layer of charm to a much beloved and already familiar story. This new musical dimension lends itself perfectly to the oratory flare of Edward Bloom and his whimsical fables. While some of the songs inject added humour and playfulness, the show is at its absolute strongest when the music lends extra emotional weight to its more tender and heartfelt moments. Sincere well-crafted ballads massively amplifies the emotional impact of a story that deals with genuinely epic love, new beginnings and bittersweet endings. The show builds momentum steadily towards a truly tear stained and uplifting finale.

Aside from the poignant subtext of the show, what is perhaps most special and memorable is the unbridled sense of fun that the production offers delighted audiences. At times the production literally leaps out amongst the audience or drags them up on stage. It’s a fully immersive experience packed with all the very best that live theatre has to offer.

The Bad

Over familiarity with the original book and Tim Burton’s film adaptation will obviously rob this stage version of the element of surprise for some audiences. Particularly as most of the changes the musical makes to the story are simplifications to streamline proceedings for a more modest cast size. Likewise at times despite the innovative set design and costume work, it’s tough to entirely escape inevitable comparisons with the special effects infused magic of the big screen adaptation. Though the musical does the very best possible with minimal set dressings and a confined space, those that struggle to rely on the power of their own imaginations will occasionally notice those limitations. But this could be said of any live theatre and shouldn’t obscure the fact that this is a truly brilliant production.

The Ugly Truth

Big Fish is one of the most delightfully fun and poignant new musicals to grace a West End stage in quite some time. Capturing the very best of both the original book and the popular film adaptation the new musical version is a raucous crowd pleasing spectacle guaranteed to deliver laughs, smiles and more than a few tears. Make sure you don’t miss a golden opportunity to see this wondrous show in a magically intimate space, book your ticket today!

Review by Russell Nelson

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