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Jeremy Eaby


Production Critique #3
Big Fish
By Andrew Lippa & John J. Sweeney
I saw Big Fish at the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City. This was
my first time ever going to see a play outside of a school environment and so
I had no real expectations for what this was going to be like, but Im glad I
went and I thought it was an incredible experience. This was also my first
musical since High School, which in retrospect and in all honesty, wasnt
really all that spectacular. I never really sought out musical shows or films,
maybe out of fear of it seeming un-macho but I really did enjoy Big Fish
and it opened my eyes to even more possibilities that can be accomplished
with theatre. Big Fish is a two Act play that follows the life of Edward Bloom
as he recounts stories of his life to his son, Will Bloom. The stories sound like
tall-tales of fantasy and fiction that make Will suspicious of the real events of
his fathers life as he tries to find out what really happened before his father
succumbs to cancer. The whole play with intermission took 2 hours which
flew by pretty quickly with the intense energy of the show so before I knew
it, the play was over. In this critique I will first deconstruct the stage and the
setting of the performance, then I will comment on the overall direction of
the play, and then finally the individual actors themselves.

Jeremy Eaby

The Hale Centre Theatre has, as the name implies, a round stage which
sits in the center allowing the audience to observe from just about any angle.
There are 3 entrances to the stage out of which the actors emerge and
retreat to and a center elevator which can raise and lower characters or set
changes quite dramatically. The stage itself has many moving parts, there is
the elevator in the center, and several tracks that make set changes quick
and nearly seamless with prepared sets only needing to be rolled out on a
conveyor-belt type track. What was the most notable for me however was
the use of a stream that runs through a quarter of the stage, the current of
which could be changed and used to drift in set pieces or characters
themselves. The river also split the stage into two allowing multiple scenes
to occur at the same time, a clever use of water Ive never seen before. With
all that being said, there are enough devices of the stage itself to make it
almost a character in itself. There was a full use of the capabilities that these
mechanisms allowed such as; flowers bouquets being floated into the scene
via the river, characters appearing suddenly through a dense mist with the
use of the center elevator, and a multitude of other examples. There were
times when the audience entrances to the stage were used with the
appearance of giant inflatable elephants during a circus scene. At times
however, there were little model sets that were lowered from the ceiling to
act as a sort of location change and what that location would look like.
Sometimes these would block the view of some of the audience higher up

Jeremy Eaby

making it harder to see the action below. The stage and its functions were
used to the best of their abilities which made for a fun and entertaining

The direction of the play is more difficult to critique for me because this
was my first musical and also my first professional theatre production. I felt
everything flowed very smoothly with the transitions between scenes being
short and the clever use of prop and costume changes being hidden onstage
allowing the actors to change quickly and within view which added an
interesting twist. As far as the actual direction that the actors were following,
they seemed to try and include everyone in the theatre so that there would
not be a bad spot to sit where the audience couldnt see anything. Of course,
there were times where the actors had their backs towards certain seats but
that cant really be avoided. I did notice though that one particular section
seemed to have the best seating arrangement with most of the action and
actors being totally visible most of the time, those being the westernmost
seats. A helpful tip for any future visits. Direction was smooth and clear with
very few hiccups aside from the minor staging mishaps.

The performers for Big Fish were all top-notch and worthy of praise all
around, but there are complaints on the range some actors were producing
while others were not. The star of the show Edward Bloom, played by

Jeremy Eaby

Douglas W. Irey, really did steal the show. The nature of the play and the
wide variation of sets and scenarios required him to be very versatile and
unique in each situation, which he did marvelously. But that was really about
it. Dont get me wrong, I enjoyed all the performances but it was just that it
seemed that all the focus and attention and really dynamic acting was only
given to that one character. The others such as Will Bloom, played by Jacob
Theo Squire, all had range but just not to the extent that Edward had. I dont
blame it entirely on the actors because it seemed to be the way of the
direction also. I understand he is the star and focus of the play and should be
the most diverse but it felt as though the other actors were one-dimensional
and less interesting. That by no means made for a bad show, just a slight
favoritism to a certain individual.

Overall, I enjoyed the show very much and would love to return for
another. Seeing these performances has opened my eyes to the world of
theatre that I might have otherwise have kept on overlooking if I hadnt
taken an acting class myself. Its a good exercise to go out and watch these
plays and dissect them, even if I there are no plans to be an actor, because it
really is an art form that gets overlooked but has so much to offer.