“There's a time when a man needs to fight, and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny is lost... the ship has sailed and only a fool would continue. Truth is... I've always been a fool.” -Edward Bloom, Big Fish (2003)
Big Fish is one of my favourite movies. The dynamics of the father-son duo at the heart of the film remind me of my own relationship with my father. It’s a story about stories, which are the things that bring me the most joy in this world – reading them, watching them, listening to them and creating them. When I heard RMTC was producing Big Fish as their musical this year, I was thrilled. I’m a big fan of the much-lauded screenplay by John August, but I’ve not read Daniel Wallace’s book and had no idea the property had been adapted into a musical. I attended on opening night (March 11, 2020), curious to see this story translated to the stage.
Here’s a lowdown on the story: Will Bloom’s father Edward is dying just as Will is about to have a son of his own. Throughout his life, Edward always told Will tall tales about the fantastical adventures he had as a youth. As Edward nears death, Will tries to wring the truth of his father, taking us through an epic journey of past and present timelines.
This is the first RMTC production I’ve attended, and one thing that struck me immediately was the production value. As a Mirvish season ticket holder, I’ve seen a variety of professional theatre productions. The look of this production, from costuming to lighting and set pieces, was on par with top tier theatre shows.
A huge highlight of the show was the performances, particularly that of Boman Martinez-Reid as Edward Bloom and Ian Kowalski as Will Bloom. These are the two characters most pivotal to the show, and they were perfectly cast. Martinez-Reid’s high-energy performance gave Edward a goofy charm. Martinez-Reid is a very talented physical actor, gleaning laughs from expressive hand gestures and sways of the hips. Kowalski, on the other hand, made his less extravagant character come to life through vocal intonation. The turns of his voice when upset sold Will’s arc. Finally, a shout-out is due to Olivia DeRoche as Sandra Bloom, who matched the charm of Martinez-Reid and pulled off an Alabama accent to boot.
Another big standout of the show was the choreography and dance core. The wonderfully whimsical dance numbers bridged the gap between fantasy and reality and helped transition scenes. In particular, I could not take my eyes off of Sam Yang’s expressive and vibrant leaps; the fluidity of his solo moment made me want to see more of him.
A few final notes include the beautiful costuming (particularly the sheer slips on the dancers), fantastic music and flawless lighting cues. This show had a big and cohesive team behind it, and it shows. Director Daniel Goldman and co. truly created something to be proud of. If you can, attend it before it finishes its short run on March 14, 2020.