It’s rare that I make it out to the theatre—snuggling up at home with my human pillows and food anytime I can summon the strength to get to the kitchen is pretty cushy. However, tonight I had tickets to see a new Broadway musical, BIG FISH.
The name alone is enough to seduce a pesco-phile like myself, but the appearance of two cats made the production certainly something to write home about.
BIG FISH is the stage adaptation of a film adaptation of a novel by Daniel Wallace. It concerns a man named Edward Bloom (Norbert Leo Butz) and his son, Will (Bobby Steggert). Edward’s life is ending just as Will’s is taking shape; he has just married, and his fiancee (Krystal Joy Brown) is pregnant with a son. Edward and Will have always had a fraught relationship. Edward is a storyteller of massive proportions, weaving unbelieveable tales of giants and mermaids and circuses and true love in daffodil fields. Will, on the other hand, was a practical child who became a practical adult. Over the course of the musical, we are treated to the biggest and brightest of Edward’s tales, while Will tries to parse where exactly his father’s real story fits into all of it.
This production is different from the film in many ways both in plot and tone. First, we’re missing the magical mystery town that appears in the film, which disappointed me. However, I’ve also never read the novel—this might be closer to Wallace’s original. As far as tonal shifts, humor is used to great effect, particularly in the first act. It’s intelligent, self-referential, purposefully silly humor, and it fits just in line with the excess and earnestness of the magical worlds in Edward’s stories. Everything’s just a bit unreal.
There are issues—certain songs, particularly for Sandra, Edward’s wife (Kate Baldwin) and Will, need shaving or cutting altogether, the book is notably stronger than the majority of the score, and the gravitas in the second act isn’t quite warranted based on the thin first act—but it’s a delight on the whole. Butz is an impressive and engaging performer, and the show is very much his. Also, the finale of the musical, as with the film, is so powerful and poignant and tender that even my green cat eyes teared up a bit.
NOW. To the cats. There are two. One appears in the arms of a slender, super-Susan Stroman sweetie in a blonde wig. She magnanimously fears for her cat’s safety against the dangerous giant lurking in the town’s cave. The next cat (the same cat? I was in the mezzanine and couldn’t tell!) flies past with a meow in a tornado scene. Finally, there is a remarkable stomach roar from one of my favorite actors, Brad Oscar, playing Amos, the carnival director. For a stage play, that’s a fair amount of cat-action.
All together, BIG FISH had all the elements of a great night of theatre, and the cats were just the icing on the cake.
The total score? 50!! Not bad for the theatre.
with my usual affect-less affection,
Franny the Cat