Saturday, March 21, 2015

SpeakEasy Stage Company Presents the New England Premiere of "Big Fish"

"Big Fish" started its life as a novel penned by Daniel Wallace.  It was made into a movie produced by Columbia Pictures and written by John August, who has also written the book for the musical version of the story. The musical had a Broadway run of only three months. One of the criticisms of the show was that several of the big Broadway production numbers overwhelmed the simple story, so the creators have developed a scaled down "12 chairs" version of the show.  It is this revised version that SpeakEasy is presenting as the New England Premiere.

It is clear to me why the show had a limited run on Broadway.  Despite the charming nature of this father-son tale, there are weaknesses in the music and lyrics that make the musical less than an unqualified success.  Mr. Lippa's lyrics are often pedestrian and awkward in terms of meter.  Such is the artistry of SpeakEasy's Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault that he often finds a way to take a work of art that has flaws and present it in a way that appears nearly flawless. He has assembled a stellar cast and creative team for this show, so the overall feel of this production is a warm and positive one.

The Scenic Design by Jenna McFarland Lord very cleverly suggests that we are watching the action take place inside of a fish bowl.  Costumes by Elisabetta Polito beautifully evoke the period and ethos that the play represents.  Lighting by Karen Perlow, Sound by David Reiffel and Projections by Seaghan McKay complete the job of creating a very convincing depiction of the rural Louisiana area where the action of the play takes place.  Musical Director Matthew Stern leads a scaled down pit orchestra of six musicians, and Larry Sousa has provided the lively choreography.

What makes this production worth seeing is the singing and the sincerity of the ensemble cast members.  Steven Goldstein plays Edward Bloom, teller of tall tales and outlandish fish stories.  His strong operatic voice soars in several of the songs, especially in "Be The Hero," and in the duet "This River Between Us" that he shares with Sam Simahk, who plays his son Will.  Will is about to become a father himself, and he feels the need to figure out who this man really is who has raised him on stories that are mostly myth and fantasy.  Mr. Simahk's singing and acting were the highlight of this production for me.  He is believable and sympathetic as the conflicted son trying to learn the truth about his father.  His clear and golden voice rings true in "Stranger" and "Magic In The Man," that he shares with Aimee Doherty, here playing Sandra Bloom..  Aimee shines, as she always does, even in a role that is not fully developed by the playwright. Katie Clark takes the small role of Josephine, Will's wife, and adds her own special sauce to make the character three-dimensional.

Lee David Skuneas as Karl the Gint
Steven Goldstein as Edward Blook
Cast Members
"Big Fish"
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Through April 11
Photo by Criag Bailey/Perspective Photo

Also standng out among the excellent ensemble is Lee David Skunes, playing Karl the Giant.  His sonorous basso profundo voice is perfectly fitted for this larger-than-life character.  Aubin Wise is a wonderful witch, and Will McGarrahan is convincing as the exuberant Amos Calloway.

Cast Members
"Big Fish" 
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Through April 11
Photo by Criag Bailey/Perspective Photo

The play will run through April 11 at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at Boston Center for the Arts.

SpeakEasy Website



Katie Clark … Josephine
Sarah Crane* … Girl in the Water
Jackson Daley … Young Will
Aimee Doherty* … Sandra Bloom
Steven Goldstein* … Edward Bloom
Will McGarrahan* … Amos Calloway/Dr. Bennett
Zaven Ovian … Don Price
Sara Schoch* … Jenny Hill
Sam Simahk* … Will Bloom
Lee David Skunes … Karl the Giant
Daniel Scott Walton … Zacky Price/Mayor
Aubin Wise* … The Witch

Directed by Paul Daigneault
Assistant Director Alex Lonati 
Musical Direction by Matthew Stern
Choreography by Larry Sousa
Scenic Design by Jenna McFarland Lord
Costume Design by Elisabetta Polito**
Sound Design by David Reiffel
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow**
Projections Designer Seághan McKay**
Props Supervision by Kat Nakaji
Production Stage Manager Marsha Smith*
Assistant Stage Manager Michele Teevan*

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