Tim Burton's 2003 film "Big Fish" was far from his most commercially successful movie. But it was a delightful story that combined fantasy, love, and adventure. In 2013, a musical adaptation of the tale premiered in Chicago. In 2023, the play returned to Chicagoland at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
I attended the final performance Sunday evening and found it nearly as delightful as Burton's movie.
The musical's plot is similar to Burton's movie, with minor deviations. Edward Bloom is dying. His son Will feels he does not know his father because Edward has spent his life telling elaborate stories of his life. Through Edward's stories and through song, we get a look into the father's adventures as he befriends the giant Karl and courts his wife Sandra and joins a circus and rescues his hometown. But we are never sure which parts are authentic, which are invented, and which are exaggerated. We hear every story filtered through Edward's oratory and wit.
The songs are trite and formulaic but catchy. What elevated this show was the performance of Alexander Gemignani, who played Edward Bloom. He made the character larger than life. His transition from energetic young Edward to frustrated and feisty old Edward was outstanding.
After the show ended and the actors took their bows, Gemignani called to the stage the entire crew for a final thank you as the run ended. It was a fitting tribute and an ideal end to a delightful evening.