|Miles Johnson, India Rose Chudnow and Jonah Carlson|
Photo: Lisa Webb / Southwest Shots Photography
"Turning a movie into a Broadway musical doesn't always meet with success. One recent show that didn't fare well in its musical transfer was Big Fish...the whimsical musical follows the story of traveling salesman Edward Bloom and brings to life the tall tales he'd often tell his son. It's a shame that the show only managed a three month run in New York, as the score by Andrew Lippa has many memorable tunes and John August's book paints some notable characters. With an extremely talented cast of teenagers who are able to successfully portray both the emotional and comical moments in the story, The Actor's Youth Theatre's Arizona-premiere production proves that a show that might have flopped on Broadway can be a success in regional theatres....The AYT cast is just about perfect, with Jonah Carlson excellent as Edward. Instilling the part with an assured take on a matter of fact "everyman," Carlson not only has you believing in Edward's seemingly imaginary tales but makes you care for him as well. His acting and singing abilities are top notch. As Will, Miles Johnson allows us to understand why he is agitated and has just about had enough of his father's tales, without making the frustration and skepticism appear as anger. This is important to make us care for him, which we do. ...Sidne Phillips is stunning as Edward's wife Sandra. She clearly projects Sandra's love for her husband and son...Phillips is also a smashing dancer and singer. Her delivery of "I Don't Need a House" is beautiful...Directors Julie Clement and Marcus Ellsworth do an exceptional job ensuring that the whimsy of the piece doesn't overpower the serious moments, but also let plenty of humor come naturally from the actors and staging. They paint some memorable moments in their lively staging and also make effective use of the center aisle in the theatre for a few key entrances and exits. Choreography from the trio of Ellsworth, Kristen Malarkey, and Corinne Mann is lively and original, including a superb "Little Lamb from Alabama" dance. ...While the main themes of the musical—love your family and live life to its fullest—may not be new, and the second act does bog down a bit, the important message of realizing that every person you meet is unique and that everyone can be the hero of their own story is something all of us could take to heart. On Broadway, Big Fish was a big musical, with large set pieces and elaborate special effects. Perhaps Actor's Youth Theatre's small budget production, which doesn't allow the spectacle to overtake the story, is how this musical needs to be seen. It lets the imagination and messages of Edward Bloom spring beautifully to life. The success of this production and the fact that the company's next show, Bonnie and Clyde, is another Broadway flop musical shows they aren't afraid to take challenges, not just keep producing the same family friendly shows over and over again, and proves why AYT is one of the best youth theatres in the Valley."