“Big Fish” at Taproot Theatre

Every man wants to be a hero to his own son. Some achieve this status with baseballs, some with fishing poles, and still others with tall tales. Edward Bloom, the hero of this musical production is one who spins yarns, fantastic and remarkable yarns with all sorts of wizardry, yarns in which he always accomplishes miraculous feats. These tales delight his young son, Will, but then Will grows up, and things change.

The show, based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, became a popular Tim Burton film in 2003, and went to Broadway in 2013. In this production thoughtfully directed by Scott Nolte we have all the magic of the original as well as the emotional highs and lows of family life through the years. Music Director Edd Key has assembled a four-piece combo that does Andrew Lippa’s music and lyrics proud.

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Nick Watson and Chris Ensweiler     Photo by Erik Stuhaug

Amazing characters abound here. Can you believe an agoraphobic giant who must be at least nine feet tall? He struts around the stage with incredible style, climbs stairs, and even dances a jig. Cheers to Nick Watson for pulling that off and to Sarah Burch Gordon who costumed this behemoth. Then there’s the mermaid (Carly Squires Hutchison) who seems to swim across the stage, again with the help of Gordon’s wonderful costume. There’s so much more. Even scenic director Mark Lund has a few tricks designed to delight the audience.

As young Will grows into adolescence then manhood, the ridiculous inventions are perceived as just that—absurd, tedious, even embarrassing. Fortunately, Will eventually learns that his father is quite wonderful, a hero of a sort, not the kind in his stories but one whose impact is on real live people. He realizes that we never know all there is to know about our loved ones or the truth of their lives.

Chris Ensweiler as Edward Bloom brings braggadocio, joy, enormous energy, and compassion to the role. He’s a whirlwind leaping from one end of the stage to the other as he emotes his astonishing stories. Backing up the energetic Ensweiler is Chelsea LeValley as his ever patient and always loving wife, Tyler Todd Kimmel as Will, his grown-up son, and a lively cast.

“Big Fish” is wholesome adult and family fare, probably not for very young children. It is a hearty summer treat for all others.

Through Aug. 13 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

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