John August and Andrew Lippa’s musical Big Fish, adapted from Daniel Wallace’s novel and Tim Burton’s 2003 movie, did not last long on Broadway. It’s not hard to see why. It is a soppy story – after his father has a stroke, his son tries to bond – in which characters don’t so much burst as straggle into song. Kelsey Grammer – yes, he of Frasier, though here strangely irony-free – is benign, even when saddled with really ancient jokes. Still, he often looks as if he has indeed woken up from a stroke and found himself trapped in a cumbersome half-frozen body.
Nigel Harman’s production has a lively red, white and blue second world war chorus, a weirdly affecting song about lambs sung by a girl trio wearing sheep ears, and a disarming performance from Frances McNamee as Grammer’s daughter-in-law. But the psychology and the fantasy interludes – green witch! bearded giant! – are equally clumping. Big Fish is small fry.