I have a personal rule when it comes to giving a standing ovation. While it has become a gesture that is incredibly common at the end of most productions, I believe that one shouldn’t stand unless they have enjoyed the show so much that they just can’t sit any longer.
If you ask my family, they can tell you that it is a rare occurrence to see me stand during a curtain call. I will hoot and clap as loudly as possible, but standing is only reserved for those shows that either give me goosebumps or make me cry. And the new production of Big Fish at the Marriott Theatre – which did both – got a huge standing ovation from me.
Based on the movie of Big Fish, which was released in 2003, this musical tells the story of Edward Bloom, a larger-than-life traveling salesman with fantastical stories, his son Will, who is expecting his first son and trying to find a way to connect with his father, and Sandra, Edward’s faithful wife and Will’s loving mother.
Throughout the story, the audience learns of various characters and happenings that include Edward’s first kiss with a mermaid, a witch telling him when he is going to die, and a giant that is scaring the whole town. Where does the truth lie and who is the man really? Those are the questions that Will wants to answer while his father is still around to be asked.
While the show introduces you to the story and the multitude of characters during the first act, the second act is where it digs in deep. With captivating songs like “The River Between Us” and “What’s Next,” you not only feel for Edward, Sandra, and Will, but you begin to think about the relationships in your own life.
We’ve all had times in our lives when we couldn’t connect with a loved one and the lyrics from Big Fish hit home. “He’s standing beside me, but not really there” from “The River Between Us” and “My father is a stranger I know very well” from “Stranger” are just a few of those moments where I wanted to congratulate the lyricist.
While the show itself is entertaining, has fun costumes, enjoyable songs, and a captivating story, the highlight of this production is the voices. Alexander Gemignani’s Edward Bloom, Heidi Kettenring’s Sandra, and Michael Kurowski’s Will make this version of Big Fish what it is. The supporting cast is excellent, and these three standouts are the real deal.
I am a sucker for powerful voices that are not only beautiful, but emotional and resonating, and each of these three performers had multiple moments where they deeply touched the audience. Between the silences, chuckles, sniffles, and energy in the theater, these performers are the kinds of actors and vocalists that one hopes to see.
This is my second time seeing Big Fish, and the first time was over 10 years ago before it went to Broadway. I remember enjoying the show but had decided that I didn’t need to see it again. Boy, was I wrong!
The Marriott production of Big Fish is packed with wondrous characters, a fun score, and incredible vocals. It’s a must-see that shouldn’t be missed!
Marriott Theatre: Big Fish Chicago Review – Big Fish is playing at Marriott Theatre through 3/19/2023. Tickets can be purchased through Goldstar or by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.