Big Fish – Upper Merion Area High School

Photo by Cecilia Lee

Big Fish by Upper Merion Area High School in King of Prussia, PA

April 6, 2022

Review submitted by Gabriela Puntel of Abington Friends School

As the lights dimmed and the curtains were lifted, Upper Merion Area High School transported everyone into the world of Big Fish with emotion, skill, and dedication all around.

Published in 2013, this musical interpretation of the novel Big Fish tells the story of rediscovering faith in fatherhood, as Edward’s son, Will, challenges himself and the audience around him to distinguish fantasy from reality in his father’s tall tales.

Despite this being such a difficult production to pull off, The Underground Players of Upper Merion did an outstanding job navigating this show with infectious energy and immense dedication. Actors embraced their roles and beautifully delivered touching songs in ways that truly tugged at the heartstrings of the audience, and left them craving more. Elaborate flashback scenes were executed with ease, as they rivetingly revealed more and more about the characters and their life stories.

Edward Bloom (Daniel Isajiw) is a complex character with buckets of stories to tell. The only problem is not being able to know the truth from fiction. Isajiw masterfully embodied his character and impressively portrayed Edward in three different stages in his life with skillful acting and a burning passion. Older Sandra (Colette Egan) is the wife of Edward, and Egan did a fantastic job capturing the essence of her character and bringing everyone to tears with her beautiful rendition of “I Don’t Need a Roof”.

With countless stories to tell, a wide variety of memorable characters were needed to make this show complete. The cast did an outstanding job of exploring their roles, keeping the energy high throughout the production, and even providing comedic relief in the midst of intense storylines. An honorable mention includes Karl (Anthony Boyle), a tall giant and best friend of Edward. Boyle perfected his delivery of hilarious comments which caused the audience to explode in a roar of laughter every time. While at times the ensemble had inconsistency in facial expressions, their impressive range of well-executed harmonies made up for this observation.

A simple yet multi-purposeful set allowed for a myriad of unique scenes, and this set was strongly enhanced by its use of props. This was especially apparent during the song “Daffodils” where a total of 3,191 daffodil props were created to illustrate the beauty and magic of the moment between Edward and Sandra. Lighting was effectively utilized to show a clear contrast in flashbacks as well as help bring focus to characters and moments in scenes. This was particularly seen in “Time Stops” where the lighting was channeled to capture the beauty of the moment.

With enthusiasm, emotion, and talented acting, Upper Merion Area High School exceeded expectations with their production of Big Fish.

_________________

Review submitted by Sarah Gorenstein of Friends Select School

Emotion rippled through the sea of audience members at Upper Merion Area High School’s production of Big Fish.  The company phenomenally captured both the fantasy of the musical and the passion of the touching story.

Written by John August with music by Andrew Lippa, the musical is based on the novel by Daniel Wallace. Set in Alabama, the story shifts between two timelines. One in the present-day real world, where father, Edward Bloom, is faced with mortality while his son, Will Bloom, prepares to become a father himself. In the storybook past, the audience follows Edward’s life as he encounters various fantastical beings, including his wife, Sandra. As time ticks by, Will tries to decipher the truth behind all his father’s eccentric stories.

The cast of Upper Merion’s production transported the audience straight into the storybook. The ensemble played a critical role in bringing this whimsical world to life. Fortunately, the performers were ready to give it their all, elevating large group numbers to lively heights, with energy and emotion until the final bow. The whole cast was comprised of strong vocalists  whose mixes filled the stage with vitality. Upper Merion excellently captured the drama of the compelling show with numbers like “Stranger” and “Daffodils”.

Daniel Isajiw flawlessly embodied Edward Bloom as he led the show with considerable talent. His performance, anchored in brilliant acting and strong vocals, captivated the audience. He effortlessly switched between Edward’s timelines and displayed the skill that went into bringing his character to life. Isajiw had remarkable chemistry with Michael Harding as Will Bloom. Their father-son relationship was lovable and genuine. From his heartfelt vocals to his technical execution, Harding provided an emotional core to the show. In addition to the Blooms, Colette Egan’s excellent vocals as older Sandra shone through in the song “I Don’t Need a Roof”. The audience was engrossed in the Bloom family’s heartwarming chemistry.

Further adding to the exceptional cast were beloved storybook characters like the Witch (Aileen Lutz). Her enchanting number “I Know What You Want” was brought to life with her dazzling vocals. As well as, the amiable giant, Karl (Anthony Boyle), captured lots of laughs from the audience through his humorous delivery. His heartfelt friendship with Edward was a notable aspect of the production.

The Upper Merion Stage Crew admirably executed the transitions between scenes, not a cue was missed. Most salient were the colorful lighting choices that animated the festive group numbers. The set for Big Fish was magical and intriguing, luring the audience into their wondrous world.

The cast members of Upper Merion’s Big Fish were truly the heroes of their story. 

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