Big Fish

 

There's no denying that the new Broadway musical "Big Fish" -- adapted from the visually spectacular 2003 Tim Burton film and featuring a creative team and cast comprised of musical theater pros -- contained all the ingredients to make an excellent stage musical.

So what went wrong?

A romantic adventure and fantasy-endowed bio-drama, "Big Fish," begins with Will Bloom (Bobby Steggert), son of the dying Edward Bloom (Norbert Leo Butz), questioning whether he really knows anything about his father, a captivating teller of tall tales instead of believable memories.

Edward's own version of his life is displayed in episodic flashbacks, including his encounters with a witch, giant and circus master, meeting and winning over his wife despite overwhelming odds and saving a small town from destruction.

It is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, who is still best known for "The Producers." The score is by Andrew Lippa ("The Addams Family") and the book is by John August, who wrote the "Big Fish" screenplay.

The rich, gothic mise-en-scène and seamless transitions of the film are replaced with poor quality songs, a slow pace, excessive sentimentality, one-liners that consistently fail to land, a clumsy structure and an ugly set where video imagery is projected onto what look like barn doors.

In the film, Edward was played by both Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor. Butz, a two-time Tony winner, is stretched too thin in playing both the younger and older Edward and fails to inhabit either believably. But he deserves credit for throwing himself so fully into the show.

Meanwhile, Steggert is so tightly-wound and full of angst as Will that his performance becomes somewhat unbearable. The characteristically vibrant Kate Baldwin, as Edward's wife, essentially gets lost in the mix of things.