All of the actors not only portray characters that are compelling (if a tad exaggerated), but they also sing and dance.
The play uses Mario Puzzo’s famous novel (and even more famous movie adaptation) to explore the Corleone family dynamics, the relationship between actor and character, the romanticised image of the gangster, and the Italian American identity.
It does this with a mix of genres and techniques. There is an element of the meta-theatrical, with Mark Skeens playing both Michael Corleone, and Al Pacino, known for his role as Michael Corleone. There are also big segments of physical theatre, with every word being punctuated by a particular movement, or with cars and driving being recreated by tight choreography and the clever use of chairs. There are musical sections, with music inspired or drawn from Italian sources, as well as pieces written especially for the show and played by the actors on the keyboard. These diverse elements generally play together quite nicely, and the show bounces from scene to disparate scene without too jarring a transition.
This is only possible because of the impressive quality of the acting. All of the actors not only portray characters that are compelling (if a tad exaggerated), but they also sing and dance. The movement is particularly tight, perfectly synchronised and expansive, clearly showing the influence of a demanding director and a rigorous rehearsal period.
In the more traditional sections of the play, the actors still excel. Mark Skeens takes centre stage for much of the show, and his performance earns that (he really looks the part, too). But I was particularly gripped by the more toned-down monologues delivered by Mark Doerr and Jesse Myers, who play Tom Hagen and Fredo Corleone, respectively. These monologues give particular insight into these characters in a way not seen in the original movie.
I felt that the writing did more than it had to. Without a real structure to hold onto, the scenes almost feel like a collection of skits, with some better than others. The script could stand cuts, which would increase the focus of the high-pace play.
Big Shot is a must-see for those who grew up with The Godfather as a (second?) Bible, and for those who find something intangibly true in gangster culture as portrayed in The Godfather, Goodfellas, or The Sopranos. And now, what kind of Italian American would I be if I didn’t quote Marlon Brando? So go see Big Shot: it’s an offer you can’t refuse.