Review for Big Fish at Island Theatre 

Photos by Abigail Stansberry

The Island Theater Delivers a Whopper with Big Fish the Musical

Good stories sometimes take a long time to tell. Such is the case with Big Fish at The Island Theater. Originally scheduled for May of 2020, this heartwarming tall tale was a victim of the pandemic and one of many theatrical shows postponed but not cancelled.  And we should be so glad it was not cancelled. The show is on stage through October 18th.

Based on the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace and the subsequent 2003 film by John August, this father/son musical story of Edward Bloom and his son is just what many of us need right now – a little flight of fantasy to lighten up our reality.

Edward Bloom, portrayed by Steve Amburgey, spends the musical weaving creative stories in an attempt to reforge a broken bond with his only son. The stories are colorful versions of his past and acted out by Steve Amburgey’s own real life son, Landon Amburgey playing Young Edward. As we meet characters from his past, they transform from real people into mystical and magical creatures.

We also meet Edward’s wife, Sandra, played by Cindy Baker. His true love who has put up with his various excuses throughout their life together. Cindy Baker is an Island Theater regular and singing wonderfully even though the character is underused in the story.

Jesse Flach plays Edward and Sandra’s son, Will. His character starts out the show at odds with his father. Jesse and his on-stage wife, Hannah Goersch, make a cute couple with realistic hopefulness about their new family. Jesse’s realistic portrayal of the character makes a nice contrast with the fanciful elements of the musical. In contrast, actors like Josh Katzman’s Ringmaster, Clark Jeffries’ Giant and Karla Green’s Witch pop out just like they walked out of a storybook.

Speaking of storybooks, there are many colorful characters in this musical but none more interesting than the set itself. Set Designer, David Black, has created a storybook of sorts on stage to frame the various adventures and tales spun by Edward Bloom. Each scene is framed in this marvelous creation which keeps the stage full of color and texture without creating lengthy scene changes or unnecessary bulk – keeping the feel light and airy.

The story itself is a bit problematic, although the theater and the cast do a delightful job on stage. The fact is the central character, Edward, wasn’t a very good father and at times – not a good husband. It’s very apparent as the musical unfolds, but for the most part the cast’s chemistry and joyfulness makes the audience root for Edward despite his faults.

Right now though, even with all his flaws – Edward teaches us some very important lessons.  Treat every person with kindness and that life is a matter of perspective and if we change the way we see things, the things we see will change.  Both vital lessons in today’s world.  Masks, limited, socially distanced assigned seating or whatever needs to be done – Big Fish is a show that is worth the audience’s trouble to see.

The Island Theater has been operating at limited capacity since the beginning of summer so you will want to get your tickets online as soon as you decide to go. Once they are sold to capacity, they won’t make any exceptions and you will have to wear a mask during the performance. Tickets are available at www.theislandtheater.com or you can reserve online at 904-254-1455.

Big Fish is a family friendly show with a cast of all ages so this is a great opportunity for a fall outing.  Next up on The Island Stage is Sweeney Todd starting October 30th and that one is for mature audiences.

About Madeline DeLorie

october, 2021

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