The Theatreguide.London Review
Dominion Theatre Autumn 2019
I say this without irony or
judgement: some people go to the theatre for exciting new experiences and
some want the comfort of assured, familiar, no-surprises entertainment.
It is to the second group
that I recommend Big.
The 1996 stage musical based
on the 1988 Tom Hanks film about a twelve-year-old boy who finds himself
in a thirty-year-old body failed on Broadway. But it retains the plot and
much of the charm of the film, so audiences can come in knowing exactly
what they're going to get and leave happily having got it.
As in the film, young Josh
makes an impulsive wish and wakes up as an adult. Once among adults his
boyish judgements are taken as clever, his boyish confusions as charm, and
he finds himself an executive in a toy company, inspiring the personal
interest of a female exec.
But as exciting as his new
world is, he misses home, mother and the simplicity of a child's life.
Composer David Shire and
lyricist Richard Maltby started writing musicals in the 1950s, and they
are consummate professionals. There isn't a dud in the entire score, but
then again there isn't much that you'll find memorable.
Probably the best song in the
show, Stop Time, a mother's lament about the mixed feelings of watching a
child grow up, is really peripheral to the main story.
And the best musical number is taken straight from the movie, as Josh and the toy company head play Chopsticks by dancing on a giant keyboard. (Notably it is that number that gets a reprise in the post-curtain-calls encore and what you are likely to go out humming.)
Jay McGuiness brings the
right level of boyish charm to the role of grown-up Josh. You won't for a
minute believe he's a twelve-year-old in a grown-up body (as Tom Hanks was
able to suggest), but you will like the character and wish him a happy
Kimberly Walsh combines
sexiness with a warmth that surprises the character herself, and Matthew
Kelly plays the boss with the effortless ease of an old pro.
Given too little to do as
Josh's mother, Wendi Peters makes the most of her one big song.
There are things to
criticise. Director Morgan Young's choreography is undistinguished, and
even the big chorus dance sequences never catch fire.
What passes for a plot
complication – the jealousy and interference of a rival toy company
executive – just disappears, along with the character, early in Act Two.
And I do have to say that the
iconic Chopsticks dance, fun as it is, is just a bit spoiled when the
giant piano keys light up as they are supposedly danced on, making it all
too obvious that the dancers' feet aren't even coming close.
But as I said, Big is not intended for people like me who are inclined to judge and criticise. It is for those who want an unchallenging and guaranteed Good Night Out, and it delivers that.
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