Erin Jump & Landon Scholar in Big Fish. Photo: TWOSOIN
Music & lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Book by John August
Based on Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, by Daniel Wallace and the film written by John August and directed by Tim Burton
Directed by Jason Roseberry & Max Gosman
A review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents are copyright © 2022, by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.
With strong, emotionally charged individual performances and creative use of the space, TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana’s first show in two years, Big Fish, The Musical, is a pretty good catch.
When entering the studio space upstairs at TheatreWorks the audience members will see a theatre-in-the-round-style seating with a seemingly random pile of items in the middle. These include a couple of wooden boxes, a wheelchair, a sword, a big key, a biology book, a fishing pole, and a blanket. The pile is split at the beginning of Big Fish, and the items are creatively used to tell the seemingly tall tales of Edward Bloom (Landon Sholar) or in his son Will Bloom’s (Trent Byers) quest to determine what’s actually true while also preparing to become a father himself.
The tales are plentiful in Big Fish, involving characters such as Amos (Billy Bass), a circus ringmaster, Karl (Samuel Moore), a giant initially living in a cave, or a Witch (Louisa Lauren), who tells Edward exactly how he’ll pass away. Each of these actors had their own quirks and mannerisms that made their characters stand out. Moore, in particular, had a combination of height plus a deadpan delivery of lines that led to some of the funnier moments of the musical.
Outstanding performances in multiple numbers led to some of the more emotional moments of the musical. Byers confidently brings forth the first ones in a performance of “Stranger”, effortlessly switching his voice from excitement at becoming a father to frustrations with not really knowing his own father, to desiring to find out the truth. He more than earned enthusiastic applause following the song.
Sandra (Erin Jump) gets two emotional moments. The first is in Act I closer “Daffodils”, where Jump and Sholar’s Edward confess their love for each other with such happiness in their voices and their eyes looking only at each other as they embrace. Jump and Sholar’s chemistry was rock solid throughout the musical, and the height of it was in this performance.
A much more solemn song for Jump comes later with “I Don’t Need a Roof”, which finds her singing solo, restating her love for him as Edward sleeps in her arms. Audience members felt the sadness in Jump’s voice and facial expressions, leading to tears shed and lumps in their throats.
On a lighter note, the cast’s performance of the “Alabama Stomp”, a dance designed to get the river to cough up some fish, was hilarious. The cast clearly enjoyed the stomping, knee-slapping good time, dancing around with infectious joy, leading to toe-tapping and head-bobbing from the audience. Credit to choreographer Sara Drake Budd on that one.
The show’s overriding plot was the relationship between Edward and Will, which was strained over the years due to Edward’s constant traveling and tales. At first, they might have been mistaken as brothers, given that Edward was not aged very well throughout a show that features multiple time periods. However, once it’s figured out which is which, the frustration found in the strain is made very clear thanks to Byers and Sholar’s confident character choices and appropriate changes in voice intensity. The tension was easily felt as a result. Even Young Will (Brooks Roseberry) uses his own attitude and confident character choices to showcase the beginnings of this frustration.
Perhaps the most unexpected treat of the night came from the use of the ceiling. Scene-related visualizations lined the top of the room, sometimes working in tandem with the cast members. For instance, during “Daffodils”, William waved his hand and daffodils appeared on the ceiling above.
Overall, the TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana’s Big Fish is a fun musical that does pretty well with some standout performances and imaginative use of a small space.
April 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, & 16 @ 7:30 pm
April 10 @ 2:00 pm
TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana
203 E. Main Street
New Albany, In 47150
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.