Sometimes the big one gets away. Woodford Theatre’s season opening production of “Big Fish,” a musical by John August and Andrew Lippa, makes a valiant attempt to reel the audience in with the tall tales of Edward Bloom and their effect on his just-the-facts son, Will, as the pair attempt to reconcile during Edward’s final months battling cancer.
Unfortunately, despite some bright moments, the play fails to capture the magic and message than won over fans of the 2003 film, which was based on the novel by Daniel Wallace.
Directed by Vanessa Becker Weig, the production lacks imagination and shows strain.
A quick examination of the actors’ biographies shows that while many performers in the leading roles have experience, that doesn’t necessarily make them ready to carry a show of the epic magnitude of “Big Fish.”
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Patrick Lee Lucas is spirited and charming as Edward, but his characterization is a little one-note and his vocals are occasionally flat. His affected Southern accent sounds like Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards,” which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. But his lack of emotional nuance, and that of Forrest Loeffler as Will, undercut the play’s potentially sophisticated message. It’s not just that storytelling is fun and good and facts are boring and overrated, it’s that seeing life with imagination, as a narrative that one is constantly revising, is a meaningful way to move through the world.
There are no outstanding musical numbers, and the choreography in several numbers is out of sync or the spacing is skewed.
And while Todd Pickett’s set and lighting design gets the job done — video elements in the second act are particularly effective — they could be rendered with more imagination. Scenic projections of on-the-nose locations frame a large screen for video elements. The images are serviceable. But this is “Big Fish,” a tale of tall tales. The sky is the limit when it comes to indulging one’s imagination.
From design to performances, almost every element of this show is a reach. Even the music feels underwhelming. I judge a show based on whether it does its job; I think the job of “Big Fish” is to inspire wonder and magic and maybe make you cry. Alas, this show did neither.
However, I did laugh a lot at the show’s curtain speech. Performed with clownish relish by Cameron and Cody Taylor, the atypical bit set the tone for mirth and merriment. It just didn’t stay that way.
What: The Woodford Theatre’s production of the musical by John August and Andrew Lippa, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 13, 14, 20, 21; 2 p.m. Oct. 15 and 22; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19.
Where: Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center, 275 Beasley Dr., Versailles