Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Big Fish
Musical Theatre Southwest
Review by Rob Spiegel

Courtesy of Jason Ponic Photography
Here's a father/son conflict that goes big time. The son, Will Bloom (Jesse Miller), is a straight-laced super adult, while the father, Edward Bloom (Tanner Sroufe), is a wildly imaginative and expansive near-child. Now that Will is about to become a father himself, he attempts to reconcile meaningfully with his dad. And of course, things don't go well.

Big Fish is a musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by John August. The story is based on Daniel Wallace's 1998 novel, "Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions," and the 2003 film Big Fish written by John August and directed by Tim Burton.

The film is one of my favorites from Burton. When I first watched it, I thought, "I'm not sure this is so great," but I'm a Burton fan, so I stayed with it. By the end, I came to believe it was one of his best films. The story grows on you. The musical is no different. At the onset, Will is annoying, and Edward is overblown. As the story moves, they become more interesting, both in their conflict and the slowly revealed substance of each character.

We're also treated to Will's wife Josephine (Adrianne Wise) and Edward's wife Sandra (Adrianne Elkins). While these characters are important to the son and his father–and they are performed well by Elkins and Wise–they play a minor role in the overall story. Much of the drama beyond the father-son conflict comes from a wild collection of unusual characters and oddball personalities from Edward's past, including a giant named Karl (Ryan Garcia).

Part of the tension between Will and Edward is due to Will's skepticism about these characters. He's heard stories about them all his life, and he's come to think they are merely figments of his father's wild imagination. With his son about to be born, Will has decided he doesn't want to indulge his father's fantasies any longer. And Edward won't admit the characters are imaginary.

Since we have a bunch of strange characters on stage, why not use them for ensemble song and dance? The show does this mightily, and to a great degree, this blows life into the show.

Directed by David Bryant, the production is a bit uneven. Opening night came with some imbalances between the mic'd actors and the nine-piece live orchestra. These bumps have probably been smoothed out as the production moved along, but it made for some difficulty hearing dialog and sung lyrics. The performances by the central actors (Miller and Sroufe) are excellent. The rest of the cast are supportive but have less to contribute dramatically, except for Garcia as the Karl the giant. They have altered his voice to sound like a giant and Garcia is just fabulous.

While there are some balance issues with the orchestra, it's great to hear live music with a musical. Music director, Daniel Bukin, does a nice job with a tight ensemble. Choreographer Shirley Roach keeps things popping with the dance numbers. They jolt the energy in a positive direction, a nice counterpart to the father-son tension. There is nice work done with the costumes by Rachel Cooper and Khristah Garcia (who also doubles on hair and make-up design).

This is a fun show. As with the film, as you near the ending, you may start to think, "This is better than I expected it to be!"

Big Fish runs through March 27, 2022, at the Musical Theatre Southwest Black Box Theatre, 6320 Domingo Rd. NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances will be on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. General admission is $25. For seniors, students, and ATG members, admission is $23. For tickets and information, please call 505-265-9119 or visit