Theater has a way of taking you where you otherwise couldn’t go. “Big Fish: The Musical” is a such a show. It goes back and forth in time in the life of a family whose father is one for tall tales. Now, as cancer takes a grip, his son aches to know where in those tales’ truth lies.

It’s a rather complicated story, especially because the father tells of a witch who foretold his dying day, a giant he befriended and how the love of his life smote him during a circus act.

The musical is making its first appearance in this region in a modestly successful production by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Manitowoc Campus Theatre. Two more performances remain to Sunday, March 8, in University Theatre on campus.

The campus-community cast portrays a colorful array of characters. In dance sequences, the dancers represent especially fanciful figures. For instance, when The Witch does her thing, she is surrounded by dancers dressed in multicolored strips of cloth for a kind of magical/mystical effect.

Director Michael Sheeks and music director Erin LaFond emphasize the storytelling in this show.

Central is Phillip Jindra in a determined performance as Edward Bloom, the father who is given to exaggerate. In the story, Edward is mostly an absentee father because he is a traveling salesman. To his son, Will (Dylan Johnston), much about him is blank. The pinnacle of their division comes in the earnest duet, “This River Between Us.”

In the score are two inspirational songs to which Phillip Jindra gives zest. “Be the Hero” is kind of Edward’s view on his flights of fancy in yarn-making. “Start Over” is Edward’s pull-up-your-bootstraps advice to his hometown that plays a role in a story Edward has tucked away from his son.

As Edward’s caring wife, Sandra, Tessa Komorwoski brightly sings the affirming “Magic in the Man.”

Woven into Edward’s wandering life are his faithful wife (Tessa Komorowski), perplexed son as a boy (Benjamin Booth) and man (Dylan Johnston), his bride (Katie Jo Shimulunas), an old flame (Addison Fowler), the witch (Cindy Bradley), the giant (Darrick Bruns), the circus owner (Britteny Simmer) and his nemesis (Justin Mrotek).

A four-piece orchestra keeps the perky and sometimes tender score moving along from behind a scrim.

A weakness in the production is sometimes-problematic singing.

Staging is minimal, in part because so much takes place in the mind.

Mostly in Act I, dance is a part of the show, with the ensemble presenting a variety of action and adding zip.

One of the fun/interesting elements in the show is the nimbleness Darrick Bruns shows as Karl, the giant, as he maneuvers on stilts.

Commitment to telling the unusual story shows up all over this production, which taps into the players’ desire to perform.

In the end of the story, only the hardest souls will not be moved by “Big Fish The Musical.”


Creative: Based on the Daniel Wallace book “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions” and film “Big Fish”: book – John August; music and lyrics – Andrew Lippa; stage direction and lighting – Michael Sheeks; musical direction – Erin LaFond; choreography – Shannon Paige; sound – Jeff LaFond; set construction – Kurt Duzeski; scenic elements, properties, costumes – ensemble with creative input from Phillip Jindra


Edward Bloom – Phillip Jindra

Will Bloom – Dylan Johnson

Young Will – Benjamin Booth

The Witch – Cindy Bradley

Karl – Darrick Bruns

The Mermaid, Ensemble – Allison Stokes

Amos, Ensemble – Britteny Simmer

Don Price, Ensemble – Justin Mrotek

Jenny Hill, Ensemble – Addison Fowler

Zachy Price, Ensemble – Ariel Ducat

Mayor, Ensemble – Sam Gretz

Dr. Bennett, Ensemble – Susan Quinn-Mrotek

Fisher Person, Ensemble – Jessica Marie Green

Josephine, Ensemble – Katie Jo Shimulunas

Sandra – Tessa Komorowski

Orchestra: Keyboards – Erin LaFond; drums – Ethan Christiansen; bass – Jordan Jones; guitar – Colin O’Dwanny

Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. March 7 and 2 p.m. March 8

Info: uwgb/edu/Manitowoc/fine-performing-arts/theatre/


Musical numbers

Act I


“Be the Hero” – Edward Bloom

“I Know What You Want” – The Witch

“Stranger” – Will Bloom

“Magic in the Man” – Sandra Bloom

“Jenny Hill” – Ensemble

“Out There on the Road” – Edward Bloom, Karl, Jenny Hill and Company

“Calloway Circus” – Ensemble

“Little Lamb from Alabama” – Sandra Templeton and Alabama Lambs

“Time Stops” – Edward Bloom and Sandra Templeton

“Closer to Her” – Amos Calloway, Edward Bloom and Company

“Daffodils” – Edward Bloom and Sandra Templeton (Bloom)

Act II

“Fight the Dragons” – Edward Bloom and Young Will Bloom

“This River Between Us” – Will Bloom and Edward Bloom

“I Don’t Need a Roof” – Sandra Bloom

“Start Over” – Edward Bloom, Don Price, Amos Calloway, Karl, Zacky Price and Company

“Start Over” (Reprise) – Edward Bloom

“What’s Next” – Will Bloom, Edward Bloom and Company

“How It Ends” – Edward Bloom


THE VENUE: Opened in 2001 as part of Lakeside Hall, University Theatre of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Manitowoc Campus is a handsome space seating 325. The space has a wide-angle feel. Gray is one prominent color; it’s in squares of acoustical material in the ceiling and on the side and rear walls. Safety lighting on the lower part of the side walls is an annoyance when the hall is dark: Too bright. Wood, chiefly light toned, also is prominent in areas of framework and on the front of the raised stage. The stage is a hybrid; while it has proscenium (flat-front), a space in front of that bellies out toward the seating area. The seats are of a metallic blue-gray material with black hard plastic backs. Aisle carpeting is taupe with a thick barb wire pattern in white running through. Along with a main seating area, there are sets of box seats with nine seats on both sides near the front. Leg room is super-ample. Overall look: Inviting. Lakeside Hall is a literal name. Lake Michigan is a few hundred yards away.