Written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg.
A Twentieth Century Fox Film.
Music by DAVID SHIRE
Lyrics by RICHARD MALTBY
Book by JOHN WEIDMAN
6 September – 2 November 2019
Review by Clive Burton
Much of the audience for Big The Musical - David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr’s musical adaptation of the endearing 1988 movie starring Tom Hanks - will no doubt be drawn by memories of this whimsical story about growing up.
The twist in this tale is that 12-year-old Josh Baskin (played by Jamie O’Connor) simply can’t wait to grow up; he sees it as a sophisticated way to win over his childhood sweetheart Cynthia Benson (Christie-Lee Crosson) and escape from a home ruled by an overbearing mom (former Corrie star, and musical theatre stalwart, Wendi Peters) and become part of a grown-up world where he can instantly fit in and avoid years of teenage angst.
But, as they say, be careful what you wish for as Josh is magically transformed into a young man through the intervention of an automaton at a seaside carnival; the transformation is achieved in the twinkling of an eye, leaving his mystified buddy Billy (Jobe Hart) to follow his friend’s adventures and tasking him to trace what became of the ‘Zoltan Speaks’ machine that granted a wish that starts so promisingly but leads to increasing disaster as the realities of adulthood begin to register.
Despite the gloss of its production numbers, the smoothness of its direction and exuberance of the choreography (both by Morgan Young), its extravagant ‘real life’ sets and video projections that flit seamlessly from scene to scene, and a punchy pit band, Big remains a bankable ‘wannabe’ rather than a full-blown hit when compared to shows like Legally Blonde and Nine to Five, with whom it shares certain stock characters and situations.
Grown up (’big’) Josh is played with verve by former boyband vocalist and Strictly winner, Jay McGuiness; an instant triple threat who shakes things up by joining the creative hierarchy at a toy company which snatches the manchild in a last-ditch attempt to devise a winning product to slay Christmas shoppers.
He is paired with an adversarial Susan Lawrence (former Girls Aloud member, Kimberley Walsh) for whom he develops an unlikely romance that works so well in the film - although less so in this on-stage coupling where her carapace of knowing toughness initially proves more than a match for his naïve advances as an innocent sleepover looms on the horizon.
A protracted 'meet my mates' dinner party number where Susan introduces Josh to her sophisticated friends serves little purpose and needs more incisive lyrics to earn its place in a show which would lose little without it.
One of many scenes re-interpreted for the stage, along with the piano dance mat scene at FAO Schwarz and Josh’s ill-fated first-time attempt at eating caviar focus the memory on the non-musical version of Big and songs like ‘My secretary’s in Love’, ‘Cross the Line’ and ‘Coffee Black’ inject a much-needed sense of pace into a bland musical whose buzz is destined to remain short-lived despite the best efforts of all concerned.
6 September – 2 November 2019
Tickets from £31
(£1 from every ticket sold will be donated to Make-A-Wish® UK)
Monday to Saturday 7.30pm (7pm on 17 September)
Thursday & Saturday 2.30pm