But go on we must. I enjoyed the show a good deal, especially for an early preview. but, throughout the evening, I had a nagging sensation that something was wrong. The cast? Mostly solid, with great turns by Butz and Kate Baldwin. The book? A decent adaptation, with some slow sections but overall good storytelling. And despite most other critics' opinions, the heavily digitized set didn't bother me (I was probably too far back to be bothered to much by it. I could hear the sound of rocks skipping in the digital creek downstage, but couldn't see it). I realized what was left - the score. Aside from the lovely "Daffodils" and the wonderful, spot-on "Fight the Dragons", the score was the problem, uncharacteristically weak and unmemorable from Andrew Lippa, who gave us "The Wild Party". It really feels like something is missing, because the most important part of a musical is the score! Without consistent, kick-ass music, "Big Fish" lacks the booming heart-racing fun that it should be providing with this amazing source material.
Furthermore, the directing decisions seem off. This should be Edward's story (stories!), but it feels rushed and impersonal sometimes, preventing the audience from connecting with Edward and being on his side as much as we should. This could be due to the lack of exciting and well-executed ensemble numbers, but it's due to the direction as well. What I saw was not a cohesive, tight production. Hopefully by opening it was, but that would require the types of changes not normally made during previews.
Kate Baldwin is stellar as Edward's headstrong sweetheart from their teenage years up until his dying day, always his biggest supporter and believer. Bobby Steggert does what he can with an underdeveloped role as Edward's grown son, Will. I blame the book for this one, because Billy Crudup in the movie version had the same problems. My favorite surprise was newcomer Ryan Andes as the good-natured Giant, with great stage presence and command of his role. I look forward to what he does next. Norbert does his very best to sell the crap out of what he's working with. It's always a privilege to see him onstage, and his performance here is extraordinary, even if he's forced to work much harder than he should be. No other performer could do with this role what Norbert does, or elevate the material as much as he does. Lots of the flaws seem to disappear because of him, and as a result I really did enjoy this show. I can recommend seeing this show because of a handful of wonderful moments, but mostly because of him.