Tom Hanks' Family Classic Big, Gets The Musical Treatment
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Making a stage show of a much-loved movie is a risk, especially when turning it into a musical. Theatre Royal Plymouth have revived Maltby & Shire's take on the Tom Hanks family favourite with panache and some serious spends on the staging, and you know what, it works. Bigly, as our orange friend in the White House would say.
It's a simple moral tale of being careful what you wish for, and don't grow up too fast, so it hasn't aged too badly — though some of the implicitly sexist assumptions (there's a repeated gag about Susan's job in marketing being Bout fetching groceries for instance) may offend the woke generation. OK, so this has fewer surprises or plot twists than the average cat food commercial — but what it does it does well indeed, with some nice numbers: slickly choreographed and impressively staged.
You shouldn't come to a show like Big expecting the unexpected, but for a warm hug of a musical as the nights grow longer and colder, it delivers handsomely. There are some fine turns by Matthew Kelly as McMillan and Wendi Peters as Mrs Baskin — act one's Say Good Morning To Mom paired with This Isn't Me is a definite crowd-pleaser and Peters manages almost to jerk the tears in the second act's Stop Time. And Jobe Hart — one of the cast's three Billies — deserves a special mention for sustained exuberance when spending most of his time being put upon.
But really this show belongs to the energetic and likeable Jay McGuinness as Big Josh and Kimberley Walsh as Susan — boy/girl band alumni in a pairing that's the stuff West End dreams are made of. McGuinness may still have to shake off some of his reality TV stylings to seem truly at home in musical theatre but his cheeky chappy charm and gusto go a long way. But wow, Walsh is a revelation — she's got a pitch and energy that could set her up as the millennial Elaine Page if she plays her cards right.
The "Big" if is whether it matched up to the movie and I'm reliably assured that the piano key dance duet and Josh's white party tuxedo tick those boxes. Big may not have much that's new to say, but it's consummately staged, performed with energy and belief, and has the odd catchy number that lingers as you pass down the escalator at Tottenham Court Road tube. Solid, scarf-waving stuff.
Big - The Musical, Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7AQ. Tickets £29.50-£96.50 — grab your tickets here. Until 2 November.
Last Updated 26 September 2019