Friday, 20 September 2019

REVIEW: Big at the Dominion Theatre

Based on the 1988 film with Tom Hanks, 12-year-old Josh Baskin (Jamie O’Connor) decides to makes a wish to be ‘big’ on an old Zoltar machine after being humiliated at the carnival. The next morning, he wakes up a fully-grown man (Jay McGuiness) much to the horror of his mother (Wendi Peters) who thinks she’s being robbed. Josh, with the help of his best friend Billy (Jobe Hart), moves to New York and is given a top job in a toy shop by (mildly creepy) business tycoon McMilan (Matthew Kelly). There he meets the serious Marketing Manager, Susan Lawrence (Kimberley Walsh), who swiftly falls for him- unaware of his real age, of course.

Overall, the production is bright, exciting and bursting with youthful energy. However, there are many flaws that cannot be dismissed. The problem with musical adaptations of films is there is little room for originality and any kind of individual flare. The biggest let down of the show was the music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby. With 27 musical numbers, you would hope that at least one of them would be slightly memorable- this was not the case. The opening song made no impact; it was not catchy or clever and this set the scene for several hours of songs that could have been cut. It all becomes quite monotonous in the first act and made me question whether it would have been better as a play. Even the cast seemed deflated when singing several of them.

A stand out for me was the set and special effects. Simon Higlett’s design was imaginative and left no scene unturned; from the carnival, to the toy shop to the apartment- everything was detailed and visually phenomenal. Ian Willian Galloway’s use of video was excellent, but perhaps was overly used in a theatre capacity; some scenes could have been substituted with 3D set for the real ‘West End’ feel, rather than using it to replicate the film. Sadly, the iconic piano scene did not live up to expectation, as it was mostly pre-recorded sound and jumping out of time. 

For the show to be marketed based mostly around him, Jay McGuiness plays a wonderfully endearing Josh Baskin. He is sweet, innocent and blissfully unaware of how his adorable inner child shines through as an adult. The spark between him and Kimberly Walsh was there, but I got quite sick of Susan only ever talking about men, boyfriends, break ups and nothing else. Walsh seemed a little wooden but played the part well. Their dance numbers were beautiful (choreographed and directed by Morgan Young), yet their vocals made it quite clear they were popstars and not musical theatre trained. Moments of Young’s
direction loses the appeal of the engaging show, with cheesy glances away after a kiss and the worst of all: Susan punching Josh in the face before telling him she loves him. Not sure what the deal was there. The ensembles- adults and kids- were spirited and gave the show a wholesome feel.

There is a lot going for Big but it feels like it needs a rewrite to it hit its peak. For fans of the film it is worth seeing for the nostalgic aspect, but it is no masterpiece. 

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls M11 | Price of Ticket: £81.50
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