‘Big’ the movie was such a hit when it was released in 1988 as it brought out the inner child in all of us. ‘Big the Musical’, which just opened at London’s Dominion Theatre, doesn’t quite do the same.
Playing for a short 9 week run, ‘Big the Musical’ doesn’t bring the films magic to the stage, but it is, nonetheless, a show of pure fun where the audience is expected to believe there is an actual boy on stage in a man’s body who wants to be a boy again.
The man, played by a charming Jay McGuiness (last seen in the awful ‘Rip it Up’). He wishes he was grown up so one day he encounters a Zoltar machine who grants him his wish, and he then finds himself trapped inside a man’s body. He is no longer recognised by his mom (Wendi Peters), nor by his next door neighbor and best friend Billy. By sheer luck, and by being at the right place at the right time, he gets a job at a toy company where he has to act like an adult but still maintain his childlike innocence. He charms people at the office, including co-worker Susan (Kimberly Walsh) and his boss Mr. McMillan (Matthew Kelly), where he is expected, along with the rest of the employees, to come up with a new Christmas toy. The Zoltar has given him 40 days to remain a man. Will that give him enough time to develop the toy and perhaps a grown up relationship with Susan? Or does he long for his simple boyhood days?
While there is not one memorable song in the show (not very good for a musical as big as ‘Big’), the actors all do their best and ultimately succeed. McGuiness is well-cast as Baskin (while several very good actors briefly play the young Josh and Billy), and Walsh is perfectly cast as the co-worker / love interest. With music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, and a book by John Weidman and direction and choreography by Morgan Young, they all have a huge stage to fill at the Dominion Theatre, and they do. And the art and set directors successfully manage to fill it with carefully erected sets which include Josh and Billy’s homes (including Joshs’ bedroom), the office, the carnival and a ballroom for the company party. But don’t expect to be humming any memorable tunes after it’s over. But you will have memories of a fun and good night out, but not necessarily a ‘big’ night out.
Review by Tim Baros