BIG FISH – Book by John August; Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa: Directed and Choreographed by Noah Racey; Music Direction by Victor Walters. Produced by OpenStage Theatre and Company (presented at the Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins) through April 20. Tickets available at 970-221-6733 or 

It’s a bit of a slog to drive all the way up to Fort Collins to see a play. But most of the time, it’s worth it. There’s really good theatre going on in the Fort Collins area that needs to be checked out. A leisurely drive up in the afternoon, a nice dinner in one of the hundreds of restaurants in this college town, and then a sit-down with a good show. Great way to spend a day. OpenStage has been doing theatre for generations of Fort Collinsians and it shows. 

Their current production is a lovely mystical story about a father who liked to exaggerate aspects of this life to make it more exciting for his son. Or was it that he was so in love with life that he found everything about it a miracle? Either way when Edward (Scott Hurst as the father) grew older and ill, Will (Brian Wilcox as the son) felt he had to find out how much of these grandiose tales were true. Thus began his journey into his father’s past. 

With a script that takes us back and forth in time to the son’s youth and later life as a doubting adult, we explore the origin stories and what the son found out. What was the truth behind the witch’s insights (Courtney Kofoed) about how Edward would die? Regardless, knowing what his death would look like gave him the courage to live without fear. This led him into adventures with the circus, a town about to be flooded, and a once-in-a-lifetime romance. 

The creativity of the production team brought all the magical aspects of Edward’s stories to life with both whimsy and believability. He had an interesting good-hearted life. So, if he wanted to make it even a little more exciting to teach his son to “be his own hero” and how to “fight the dragons,” no harm done. The audience got to see both the true adventure and the slightly inflated version he shared with others. But there really was a mermaid (Ruby Duka) and a giant named Karl (Cisco Saavedra) and a magical field of daffodils. 

Scott Hurst is one of those actors you can always count on to bring his character to startling authenticity. Playing older was a bit of a stretch for him, but so much more effective than having two actors play the younger and older Edwards. His musical journey was made more exciting by Scott’s charm and commitment. His once-in-a- lifetime romance Sandra, who became his patient understanding wife, was brought beautifully to life by Brikaih Flore. Her magnificent voice taught us about the “Magic in the Man” and reminded us that she didn’t “Need a Roof” over her head to be happy with him. 

I’m so happy to see gifted young performers. The very young Will was created by the uber talented Marlon Rothstein who showed no hesitancy about being on stage with the big guys and held his own in the music department. OpenStage is grooming the next generation of performers for Fort Collins. Bryn Frisina gets a nice turn as Jenny, the girl who doesn’t want to leave her hometown that is about to be flooded and must be persuaded to “Start Over.” 

The singers and dancers were provided with musical accompaniment and sound effects by a five-member live band behind the curtains that kept the energy up and the music moving along. 

All in all, it was a joyful musical evening . . . the sort I’m beginning to expect every time I visit this company. It’s not really SO far to Fort Collins. 

A WOW factor of 8.5!! 

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