Big The Musical, Dominion Theatre | Review

Thursday 19 September 2019

Big The Musical 
Dominion Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 18th September 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

Lets start by saying that I am not in the group of people who have seen this film, so had nothing to compare it to when I took my seat at the Dominion Theatre. The Tom Hanks movie came out in 1988 and was followed by David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr's musical in 1996, which received five Tony nominations but was a pretty large flop. Twenty three years later it has hit the West End for a limited run that promises to big Big in every sense of the word.

The story follows Josh Baskin, a twelve year old boy who makes a wish on a Zoltar machine to be a grown up. The next morning he wakes up an adult who scares his mother, makes his way to New York City and lands himself a pretty swanky job at a toy company. Its here that he meets Susan, a fellow colleague who he begins a romantic relationship with. Completely normal when he's really a child, right? 

The story is questionable to say the least, but it certainly had potential to be elevated by catchy songs and choreography, unfortunately this does not happen. The music is mostly unmemorable and often drags in a clumpy, unoriginal way. Similarly, the choreography is restrained and the large cast are rarely used. The sets and projections are effective to an extent but feel uninspired and lack the wow factor. 

Jay McGuiness brings wonder to Josh and is entertainingly gawkish. His vocals are mostly strong and his chemistry with Kimberly Walsh is pretty believable (though its hard to believe a relationship rooted in such a weird idea). Walsh as Susan brings a solid performance but often feels as though she's merely going through the motions. Jobe Hart as Josh's best friend Billy is the stand out cast member as he gives a firecracker performance which entertains and excites. Wendi Peters is also wonderful and would certainly elevate the production if she had more stage time. 

It's very hard to overlook how white this production is; set in New York, a hub for various cultures to intertwine, it's shocking that the entire adult cast features not a single person of colour. Whilst the ensemble do work hard, there's no denying that this is not the sort of casting audiences want to see in 2019.

At the end of the day, this will always be a strange story to stage because it is plain weird; but with a little magic and excitement, it could provide some memorable theatrical moments. Unfortunately this production fails to do so and is more basic than big. Various sexist comments, questionable actions and mediocre songs leave you feeling bored and creeped out. 

photo credit: Alistair Muir