Surely one of the most ambitious shows to be mounted in the area this season, Big Fish is the Santa Barbara High School Theatre program doing what it does best — big musicals with lots of dancing and professional production values. Theater program director Otto Layman is the auteur responsible for this marvelously complex and layered evening, with Jessica Hambright on board as choreographer to help realize the multidimensional vision of the show’s original Broadway director, the legendary Susan Stroman. Aaron Linker plays Edward Bloom, the tale-spinning, shape-shifting protagonist, and Andrew Gutierrez is his son Will, the relentlessly practical and analytic counterpoint to his father’s slippery grandiosity.
Thanks to Edward’s overactive imagination, the show’s multifarious plot effectively defies summary. There’s a singing and dancing tree, a werewolf, and, of course, a big fish. There’s also a remarkably wide variety of dance styles, many of them quite specific to the show’s setting in Alabama. Lizzie Saunders, Hailey Turner, and Hailey Simmons take a particularly effective turn in this vein as the Alabama Lambs. Saunders plays the young Sandra Bloom stealing Edward’s heart, but a second Sandra Bloom is necessary to handle the scenes set in the present, and Sable Layman sings and acts beautifully in this key role. In addition to the excellent and elaborate set design, the professional band led by Jon Nathan contributed to the overall impact of this colorful example of great contemporary musical theater.