I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
A magical family fable
What is our legacy when we leave this world? What will our children remember us by? Where does the line between fiction and fantasy blur?
These are questions thrown up in Engadine Musical Society's thoughtful production of the rarely seen gem, Big Fish. A musical version of Tim Burton's 2003 film by the same name, composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa's show contains all the fairytale magic and the heartache of facing our mortality as the movie and Engadine Musical Society manages to handle all the complexity of this gorgeous show with aplomb.
Big Fish starts and ends with Edward Bloom, a complicated man with a tall tale for every occasion. His son, Will, used to think he was incredible, but as an adult expecting a baby of his own, his father's stories don't have the magic they once held. As his father faces his mortality, Will hunts for the truth behind the fairytales to uncover who his father really is before it is too late.
Director Kenney Ogilvie displays an impressive directorial talent in bringing this large cast together, in a show, that in lesser hands, could have easily become incohesive. Ogilvie's production deftly manages to traverse between the fantasy world of Edward Bloom's stories and the reality of his coming to terms with his illness to great effect. Peter Gibbs-Sampson's musical direction is tight with ensemble numbers capturing the magic of the show beautifully. The leads all deliver strong vocal performances too. Choreography by Tracey Blankenship is incredibly effective at creating the fairytale world with a strong dance ensemble. The cast navigates the varying styles of the show with ease in Blankenship's capable hands.
The set is straight out of a Pixar dream with a blue sky dotted with clouds painted on the entire floor and a backdrop to match with a single white door onstage. It's simple, effective and sets up the show's climax perfectly. Ogilvie and performer Mal Tuck, prove they are multi-talented, having also designed and painted the set.
The show's costumes are just as impressive, with a huge variety of costumery needed to portray the many different characters Edward Bloom meets along his journey.
And now to the performers. As the leading man, Adam Scicluna does a beautiful job of portraying the imaginative man with a big heart, Edward Bloom. Whilst there are a few cracks showing in Scicluna's vocals, I imagine this can be put down to tiredness at the end of a long season and his performance is all heart. Charmaine Gibbs as his wife, Sandra, delivers a powerhouse performance and her heartbreaking ballad 'I Don't Need A Roof' in the second act is, for me, the absolute highlight of the show. As Edward's adult son, Will, Mal Tuck presents a sensitive, nuanced and honest interpretation of a young man searching for answers and his solo vocal moments are moving and effortless. Tuck is supported beautifully by the gentility of Natasha Tsafis as his new wife.
Joshua Scott as the young Will has an adorable energy and when he gets the chance to sing, his vocals are clean, clear and pitch perfect. Hannah Barn demonstrates her exceptional ensemble work in group numbers, proving that she's always ready with a gangbusting tap routine, but it's in her lovely work as Edward's childhood sweetheart, Jenny, that her acting chops really shine through. Barn's Jenny is so sweet and genuine that it's impossible not to feel empathy for her plight.
It's impossible to talk at length about every individual in the cast who performed their socks off in this show, but they do all deserve to be mentioned. So, the full cast (in alphabetical order) who brought this show to life are here: Hannah Barn, Tanya Boyle, Trevor Burdon, Flynn Crewes, Graeme Davies, Pamela Diaz, Keely Finn, Charmaine Gibbs, Anthony Halpin, Brad Hunter, Madison Kennedy, Sam Osborn, Paul Oscuro, Adam Scicluna, Joshua Scott, Georgia Scott, Natasha Tsafis, Mal Tuck and Katie Vials WITH Alexis Alcorn, Alyssa Bishara, Tiana Bishara, Keira Blackmore, Emily Blackmore, Eamonn Blair, Dominic Briggs, Mia Briggs, Samara Brownhill, Annie Chappelow, Michaela Cullen, Meg Day, Hannah Dolan-Brown, Olivia Ewings, Tracey Frazer, Caitlin Frazer, Felicity Guthrie, Jordan Harper, Connor Healy-Green, Vincent Holdom, Jamie Kalimtzis, Jayden Latham, Jacob Minchhew, Nicole Moss, Darcy Noack, Nicholas Otomancek and Sidney Udrea.
The entire cast should be congratulated as this magical show was so impactful that I don't believe there was a dry eye in the house by the final bow. Congrats must go to Engadine Musical Society as well, for taking a chance on a show outside the traditional musical theatre canon and giving community theatre a taste of something unique and different in this rarely performed show.