Theater Review: Big Fish (Coronado Playhouse in San Diego)

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by Milo Shapiro on December 3, 2022

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


Some theater should cause you to think deeply, stir your motivations, and cause you to be a better person for the ride you were on. And some theater is just to make you smile. Big Fish is a smiler … and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Will Bloom (Cole Atencio) is a twenty-something with a common struggle: His Dad makes him crazy in two key ways. First, his father Edward (Michael Harrison) so fully integrates tall tales into everything he says that it’s impossible to have a sense of what is real in his current world, let alone his history. Second, his big personality is so strong and uncontrollable that young Will can never count on any discretion or tact from him. Add to this problem that Will has a close relationship with his mother Sandra (Amanda Blair) who sees Edward differently; she loves her husband so deeply that she can’t relate to Will’s frustration. With songs by Andrew Lippa, bookwriter John August’s story — based on his 2003 film — is primarily Will’s quest to find the truth and relate to his Dad.

Scenic designers Bob Brum and Stan Soth do a keen job of creating a multi-tiered, nearSeussian world for the characters to live in, suiting the dreaminess of Edward’s bigger-than-life sagas that include witches, mermaids, and giants. Hunter Brown’s direction and Erica Kahn’s choreography make good use of the busy, not-so-huge stage for all that is going on here with constant entrances and exits and moving stage pieces.

Mr. Harrison successfully embodies the amorphous Edward, relishing his own larger-than-life world while feeling anguish at his son’s lack of enthusiasm for his grandeur. While his singing is solid, it is Ms. Blair’s vocals that captivate the audience every time she opens her mouth and their harmonies together are lovely. Also excellent is Will Corkery (recently the best part of Wildsong ProductionsAssassins) as Amos, a circus owner who may (or may not) have been part of Edward’s history. Mr. Atencio, in part because of the scripting, comes across a bit stiff in Act I (we should feel for him, but don’t quite), but he finds his stride more strongly as the show goes on, touching us more deeply in Act II.

This is community theater and, accordingly, Big Fish doesn’t have the highend polish of some of the bigger companies in town. Some of the dancing and, occasionally, singing does fall more into the “good attempt” category while other aspects of the production are right on target. Although a bit uneven with that, Coronado Playhouse does a sweet job of creating an other-worldliness for Edward that is enchanting and enjoyable throughout.

photos courtesy of Coronado Playhouse

Big Fish
Coronado Playhouse
1835 Strand Way in Coronado (San Diego)
Thurs, Fri & Sat at 8; Sat at 2
ends on Dec 5, 2022
for tickets, call (619) 435-4856 or visit 

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