“Imaginative” is the word that best describes Big Fish, Moonlight Stage Company’s closing offering of its outdoor amphitheater season. Its trippy screen projections, versatile set pieces and colorful costumes combine to transport you to a circus, to an open field of daffodils, to an Old West town, to the cave of a giant, and more. These are all memories from the manically creative mind of Edward Bloom (Josh Adamson) – or are they? Are they instead fantasies? Fish stories if you will?
You may remember Daniel Wallace’s novel “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions” or more likely Tim Burton’s 2003 film based on the book, “Big Fish.” This 2013 stage musical (book by John August, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa) is a natural extension. While less wacky and more sincere than Burton’s film, Big Fish the musical, directed at Moonlight by Steven Glaudini, is a mostly merry carnival ride, with just the right amount of human warmth. (Its conflict stems from Bloom’s son, played by Patrick Cummings, trying to find out “the truth” about his eccentric – and dying – dad’s past.) The always magnetic Bets Malone teams with the resourceful Adamson to give you true characters to root for, and the musical score is unpretentious if innocuous. The defining “How It Ends” sequence late in Act 2, however, is undeniably moving. At that point, the question of what’s real and what’s imagined becomes secondary to the preciousness of life itself.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.