WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Other Palace
WHEN: 1/11, press night 7/11, runs to 31/12
Kelsey Grammer is best known for playing Dr Frasier Crane in TV’s Cheers and Frasier and has a Tony, five Emmys and three Golden Globes to his name.
- Read on for reasons including how the front row becomes part of the production
Big Fish is a 1998 novel that became a 2003 film directed by Tim Burton and eventually a Broadway musical which ran for four months in 2013.
It is the story of Edward Bloom (Grammer, in irresistibly charismatic form) and his journalist son who is about to become a father. The younger Bloom is trying to discover who his travelling salesman father really is and whether there is any truth to the fanciful stories he tells.
We love what Andrew Lloyd-Webber has achieved with The Other Palace but we’re surprised this intimate 300-or-so-seater is staging such a show with such a gigantic star at its heart.
In the programme Lloyd-Webber says: ‘I want The Other Palace to become the London space where writers and producers can try out and refine new work. It will therefore offer audiences the chance to see musicals in development. Some of the productions will be more finished than others.’
Big Fish works wonderfully as a musical because the tall tales Bloom spins, featuring characters including a giant, a mermaid and an impending flood, lend themselves to the larger-than-life theatricality that musicals do best.
We particularly enjoyed Red, White And True, the opening number of the second act, where Grammer moves along the entire front row where we are sitting, giving us the opportunity to shake his hand in the process.
Grammer’s performance is matched by his wife (Clare Burt) and young self (Jamie Muscato). The elements of the show where the older characters are shadowed by people playing them when they were younger is also effective and reminded us of how that device is also used in Follies, currently running at the National.
We shan’t give away the show’s close but we weren’t alone in bawling our eyes out as it reached its big-hearted conclusion. Best West End musical since Follies.