This is a truly magical piece of theatre with a charismatic but inclusive performance from star Kelsey Grammar. Edward Bloom is a man for tall tales, but on his death bed his son tries to untangle truth from fiction to discover the real father he feels he never knew.
A poignant story of the ofttimes difficult relationship between fathers and sons this is also by turns laugh out loud funny and deeply moving. Grammer is the star but this is not a star vehicle and he regularly takes second place to his younger self – played with great style and verve by Jamie Muscato who gets the stand-out number of Act One – On the Road. Bloom’s son is played by Matthew Seadon-Young who brings great depth and sincerity to the part which grounds the fantastical elements of his father’s tall tales in an emotional truth. He also gets to show off his singing chops in the powerful Stranger.
Blooms wife Sandra is played by Clare Burt who tugs at the heart strings as she sings of her love for her now dying husband in I don’t Need Roof – which couldn’t be staged more simply but also must be one of the most powerful evocations of undying love ever staged. Outstanding.
Nigel Harman’s direction is clever, exploiting the small and intimate space by setting all the action in Bloom’s hospital – with all the costumes comprising elements of hospital paraphernalia – the witch’s dress of surgical gloves is a great idea brilliantly executed. There is a stunning coherence to the production with costume, set, choreography and props all working together to support the visual theme and the story. I particularly liked young Bloom literally jumping through hoops in his job at the circus.
Grammer meanwhile is just great. They say it can be a mistake to meet your heroes but, as he literally climbed over me in the front row, I can say he was all you hoped for and more. There are glimpses of Frasier’s swagger and twinkle in Red White and True and he is the true and solid centre of the production. We have to believe in him to believe in all the other characters – and we do, right from his very first words.
Big Fish the musical is at The Other Palace until 31 December 2017.