If you don’t know the story of ‘Big’ then where have you been hiding the last thirty years? The film was an iconic piece of family entertainment in the 1980s where Tom Hanks played an adult Josh Baskin. And the musical has now been around for over 20 years first appearing on Broadway in 1996.
Josh, a twelve-year-old boy becomes frustrated with his life, always being nagged by his mom to do chores, never being able to talk to the girl he fancies, being told he is too small for a carnival ride. At the carnival he comes across a fortune teller machine – Zoltar Speaks. Dropping a coin in the machine Zoltar asks him to “Make A Wish!”; he makes an impulsive wish “To be Big”. Next morning Josh wakes to find overnight he has transformed into a Man! Quite a shock when things don’t quite look like they used to! Making his way downstairs, Josh tries to break the news to his mom, but as panic ensues, he flees the house. The Young Josh, played by Jamie O’Connor is only a small part, but from his time on stage, Jamie set out Josh’s character well.
From then on he begins a journey of self-development in adult life – Josh gets a job, gets an apartment, gets a girl, goes to a dinner party with grown-ups, and in the end has to deal with the heartbreak of letting go of said girl.
Tim Hanks made this film such a staple of family viewing that those are some “Big Boy Shoes” that would need to be filled. Jay McGuiness as Adult Josh does this with ease, putting all his singing, acting and dancing experiences into practice, he sells his part from the minute he awakes in his bedroom with the shock of being a man, through his time in the Toy shop where he performs the iconic “piano scene” with George McMillan, to the emotional moments towards the end when he decides being a young boy again is what he really wants.
Matthew Kelly plays George McMillan, the owner of Macmillan’s Toys; Josh manages to help George rediscover his enthusiasm for the industry after years of joy being sapped away by the corporate approach to childhood. Matthew works extremely hard to endear the character to the audience, bringing his charm and grace to the role; he also impresses with his physical exertions during the piano scene. That said, and to coin a phrase from another comedic legend Eric Morecambe; “he’s playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”.
Wendi Peters, Josh’s mom, gives a strong performance as the always harassed and harangued housewife, many a parent will empathise with her constant need to chase him to do chores or her heartache when she has to live with her son having disappeared, many a child with empathise with Josh for his mom constantly nagging him and the desire to be a grown up!
Josh discovers love during the show with the Vice President of Marketing (nothing to do with groceries), Kimberley Walsh; Susan is an attractive, charming, high flyer, who has worked her way up the corporate ladder, using her guile and ruthlessness to get where she wants. In Kimberley, she delivers the attractive and charming qualities you’d expect, a good steady performance, but the delivery does lack a bit of that ruthlessness, the passion for the situation not quite appearing.
The biggest shout out however must go to Josh’s best friend – Billy. Jobe Hart worked tirelessly to help his best friend rediscover the Zoltar machine, having to constantly remind Josh of the plan to revert back to a child. For a young performer, Jobe was engaging to the audience, endearing with his emotions, impressing with his vocals and mesmerising with his moves. When Josh is Big I’m sure he will still be delivering the way he does in this show.
The staging of the production makes good use of a revolving set, allowing characters to transition between scenes smoothly, credit to Simon Higlett for his design skills; what was distracting was cast members on the ‘reverse’ sets continue their roles in mime, and a few times you find your eyes distracted off the main scene. Director & Choreographer Morgan Young has been cast two talented dancers in lead roles, both being veterans of Strictly Come Dancing, which allows him to draw on their experiences to deliver quality dance and musical routines, and with a good supporting ensemble they deliver the routines flawlessly; “Black Coffee” being the most memorable routine of the show, and from the audience’s reaction their favourite too.
The feel good factor the show ensures across all ages makes it a must-see whether you are 7 and only just discovering Big and wanting to grow up or 70 and have seen the film and lived the adult life!
Big The Musical is currently playing at The Dominion Theatre.