Theatre Raleigh’s July 11-15 and 18-22 presentation of Big Fish, playing at the Kennedy Theatre in Raleigh, NC, is a story that transitioned from a 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace to a 2003 Columbia Pictures movie by John August. August also wrote the book for the 2013 Broadway musical, with lyrics and music by Andrew Lippa. This show is lively and delightful, surprising and heartwarming — a story of family love.
Eric Woodall brings his excellent direction and fine casting to yet another highly entertaining production in Raleigh. A high note of this production is the remarkably choreographed scene changes performed by the Ensemble, utilizing set pieces and props by Tim Domack, which are stacked around the stage and moved smoothly into and out of place. For this show, the stage has been moved to a lengthwise location in the space, with a dozen or so seats left and right stage for audience members who want a closer relationship with the cast.
The integration of story action, song-and-dance numbers, and entrances and exits from both sides of the stage (and a window) and the use of two pits reveal the closeness of scenic designer Josh Smith and choreographer Abbey O’Brian, with Woodall. They kept the story flowing, the action fluid, and the emotions high from beginning to end.
Costumes were fun-loving and character-related, notably those of the Ringmaster, the Mermaid, the Witch, and the Giant, as well as the dancing trio, with credit going to costumer Meg Powers. Wigs by Liz Printz also enhance the characterizations. And lighting designer Erich R. Keil lights up the sky for the “Daffodils” duet sung by Edward and Sandra.
Music comes from a sextet that includes violin, cello, guitar, bass, percussion, and director/pianist Ethan Anderson. They are wonderful.
This is, indeed, a big fish tale about a man with a big heart, and a great imagination; a joker and storyteller, about whom there is much to be revealed.
Edward Bloom is played with subtlety and nuance by Timothy Gulan, and you just can’t help but warm up to the guy. His duet, “Daffodils,” with his wife Sandra (played by Lauren Kennedy), and Edward’s duet with his son Will (portrayed by Keegan Story), “Fight the Dragons,” clearly express his love of family.
Lauren Kennedy as Sandra Bloom sails through the role with her matchless voice, and sparkles in her “audition” scene as one of a trio of hopeful stars. Karl, the Giant, is played as larger-than-life by Paul Hinkes, who fills the part both physically and emotionally. Hinkes manages an aura of hugeness that is even more impressive than his already uncommon height.
Chris Dwan takes on the role of Edward’s son, Will, as a grown-up, preparing to marry his sweetheart, and does a fine job making his character very restive about his dad being overbearing and attention-grabbing. The Witch is performed beautifully by Chanda Branch, who also is part of the Ensemble, and carries the aspect of mysticism in her prediction to Edward. And Young Will is played by Keegan Story, who is energetic and awed by his dad’s tall tales and holds his own in the “Fight The Dragons” duet.
Mili Diaz does a fine pregnant fiancée, Josephine; and her rendition of “Just Take Another Look” is sweet and moving. The rest of the cast — which includes Carlos Alcala, Shanelle Nicole Leonard, Areon Mobasher, Adam Poole, and Lydia Tart — is just wonderful.
SECOND OPINION: July 12th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Review by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-Theatre-Raleighs-Inventive-BIG-FISH-Transports-Audience-to-a-Simpler-Time-20180712 and July 7th BWW Interview with Theatre Raleigh artistic director Lauren Kennedy and Big Fish director Eric Woodall, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-Theatre-Raleighs-Lauren-Kennedy-And-Eric-Woodall-Talk-BIG-FISH-Southern-Roots-and-Family-20180707; July 12th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: https://www.newsobserver.com/living/article214778805.html; July 12th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/07/theatre-raleighs-big-fish-is-full-of-magic-and-heart/; July 11th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/big-fish/Event?oid=15920207; July 8th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article214205869.html; and June 16th Raleigh, NC Talkin’ Broadway: Raleigh/Durham interview with Theatre Raleigh artistic director Lauren Kennedy, conducted by Garrett Southerland: https://www.talkinbroadway.com/page/regional/rd/rd51.html.
Theatre Raleigh presents BIG FISH at 8 p.m. July 13, 2 and 8 p.m. July 14, 3 p.m. July 15, 8 p.m. July 18-20, 2 and 8 p.m. July 21, and 3 p.m. July 22 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theatre in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $5 (32.50 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel). (NOTE: The 3 p.m. Sunday, July 15th and 22nd, performances are SOLD OUT. Call 919-832-9997 to ask about the wait list for those performances.)
BOX OFFICE: 919-832-9997, email@example.com, or https://theatreraleigh.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S61000005Byu0EAC.
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Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions (1998 novel): http://danielwallace.org/wordpress/?page_id=973 (official web page) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Fish:_A_Novel_of_Mythic_Proportions (Wikipedia).
The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Daniel Wallace (Birmingham, AL-born novelist): http://www.danielwallace.org/home.cgi (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/daniel-wallace-493997 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1180620/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Wallace_(author) (Wikipedia).
Big Fish (2003 fantasy film): http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/bigfish/ (official web page), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/451072/Big-Fish/ (Turner Classic Movies page), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319061/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Fish (Wikipedia).
Big Fish (2013 Broadway musical): https://www.theatricalrights.com/show/big-fish/ (Theatrical Rights Worldwide), http://danielwallace.org/wordpress/?page_id=1302 (Daniel Wallace’s web page), https://andrewlippa.com/big-fish/ (Andrew Lippa’s web page), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/big-fish-493987 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Fish_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://www.firststage.org/Documents/First%20Stage%20PDFs/Enrichment%20Guides/BIG%20FISH-EG-2015.pdf (First Stage of MIlwaukee, WI).
Andrew Lippa (music and lyrics): https://andrewlippa.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/andrew-lippa-13451 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1651688/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lippa (Wikipedia).
John August (book): https://johnaugust.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/john-august-493996 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0041864/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_August (Wikipedia).
Eric Woodall (director): http://www.ericwoodall.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/eric-woodall-90124 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0940106/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/eric.woodall.98 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.