‘BoHo’ LANDS LUSH, MIGHTY “BIG FISH”
Boho Theatre rounds out its fifteenth season with a lush and musically rich revival of “Big Fish,” which opened Saturday at Greenhouse Theater Center.
The source material is the 1998 Daniel Wallace novel, adapted by John August for the 2003 film, directed by Tim Burton, and then reimagined for the stage by August with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Susan Stroman directed the 2013 Chicago production, which starred Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin. That big-stage production moved to Broadway for a brief run.
If you saw the pre-Broadway production, you might think that the sweeping vista inherent in Edward’s adventures could make “Big Fish” an especially daunting show to pull off on a smaller scale. I was delighted to discover that the gritty-and-gifted ensemble under the artful direction of Stephen Schellhardt succeeded so well in capturing the emotional core of the piece. The art of storytelling—and the beautiful score that resonates within the intimacy of the Greenhouse space—allows our imaginations to be fully engaged by Edward’s journey. Schellhardt has created a tender, immensely moving experience under the superb musical direction of Michael McBride and spirited choreography of Megan Farley.
A witch, a giant, a circus, a mermaid and a hidden secret or two are all part of the whimsical odyssey of Edward Bloom (Tommy Thurston), who rose above his poor Alabama farm roots to live a fantastical life. Alternating from the present to the past through flashbacks, the story follows Bloom’s son Will (Jeff Pierpoint) as he tries to verify his dying father’s remarkable stories of adventure and romance while reconciling their complicated and conflicted relationship.
Thurston’s down-home charm and supple range match perfectly with the radiant Kyrie Anderson, who is captivating as his wife Sandra. Pierpoint’s talents are on full display, and with his pregnant bride Josephine, a tender Nicole Besa, and the endearing Desmond Murphy as the young Will (a role shared with Ian Michael Pinksi), this is a family you can really believe in. The ensemble covers numerous featured roles in the stories that unfold along the way, including: Caitlin Dobbins (Witch), Michaela Shapiro (Girl in the Water), Robert Quintanilla (Karl), Alli Atkenson (Jenny), Sean Michael Barrett (Amos Calloway), Matt Frye (Don) and Joshua Bishop (Zacky).
Scenic designer Lauren M. Nichols’s multi-level staging is reminiscent of a pier with the audience on two sides and the superb chamber orchestra in full view. Artfully enhanced lighting and projection design by G. “Max” Maxin IV, with costumes by Christina Leinicke and sound by Daniel Hosfield, all combine to make “Big Fish” a heartfelt generational tale about the importance of telling your own story.
PHOTOS|Time Stops Photography
through November 17, 2019
GREENHOUSE THEATER CENTER
2257 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago
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