Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot follows the story of traveling salesman Edward Bloom, a gifted storyteller whose son often doubts the farfetched stories of his father's past. Through a series of flashbacks, including encounters with a witch, a mermaid, a giant, and even a werewolf, we relive the events of Edward's past and go along on Will's journey as he tries to find the facts within the fiction of his father's past.
Andrew Lippa's score has numerous memorable and catchy tunes and John August's book paints vivid and emotionally rich characters. For this smaller cast version, a couple of the large production numbers have been eliminated and replaced with other songs, including the excellent "This River Between Us," which was cut after the show's pre-Broadway tryout. It's nice to see that song has been added back for this version.
Director Shelby Maticic has found a great cast with three superb leads who beautifully portray both the heightened emotional scenes and the comical moments in the story. Nicholas Hambruch is excellent as Edward. Hambruch pulls the audience into the many stories that Edward tells, making us believe them and, when the story progresses and he has some health issues, also has us deeply caring for him as well. Hambruch's rich singing voice excels on every song he sings and he projects a realistic chemistry with both Anand Khalsa, who plays his son, and Addison Bowman, who plays his wife Sandra.
With an always serious and agitated demeanor that perfectly depicts the doubting son, Khalsa is superb as Will. His singing voice is rich and strong. His forceful delivery of "Stranger" is excellent, as is the duet of "This River Between Us" he shares with Hambruch. Bowman projects warmth and love for the two men in Sandra's life and is both a talented singer and dancer. Her performance of "I Don't Need a House," in which Sandra tells Edward that she doesn't need anything but him in her life, is infused with emotion.
In the supporting cast, Jaelyn Brown is sweet and headstrong as Will's new wife, and Cyrus Hilding has good comic timing and is a complete natural as Young Will. As the three main characters in the stories Edward tells, Krissy Johnson, Kevin Fenderson and Brady Anderson are all fine and create unique characters. Mackenzie Morgan is good as a woman in Edward's past and Sarah Bary, Noah Manumaleuga and Anthony Rozzen all get a moment or two to shine.
Director Maticic does a nice job in balancing the fantasy sequences and the serious moments. Her costume designs are a perfect blend of whimsical and realistic period pieces and she stages the action very well on Brian Maticic's imaginative set. Even though this is the smaller cast version, there are still several dance moments and Falin Ossipinsky's choreography is fun and lively. Shelby Huston's hair designs feature effective wigs for Bowman to portray the various ages of her character.
Big Fish is a musical that stirs the emotions as it depicts how a fractured relationship between a father and son can change, grow and heal. Brelby's production is incredibly moving, with a talented cast who excel. It may not have had a long life on Broadway but with important life lessons, intriguing characters, and many fantasy sequences, along with a gorgeous score, it is easy to see why Big Fish is receiving numerous productions in regional theatres. I have to imagine that, with this smaller cast version now available, it will receive even more.
Big Fish, through March 10, 2019, at Brelby Theatre Company, 7154 N 58th Drive, Glendale AZ. Tickets are available at www.brelby.com or by phone at 623-282-2781.
Book by John August