Sunday, 6 November 2016

Big The Musical European Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae

We all know and love 'Big'- the 1988 comedy film starring Tom Hanks which follows the story of a young boy, Josh Baskin, who makes a wish "to be big" and is then aged to adulthood overnight.

In 1996 the concept was created into a musical which then opened on Broadway for a total of 193 performances throughout that year. 

20 years later, Big The Musical makes it's European premiere at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Last night I was lucky enough to catch its opening night in my hometown.

I think the heart-warming story is well suited to be a musical adaptation. It has obvious breaks in the storyline where a musical number fits perfectly and this production generally executes it well- it doesn't seem like its stopping/starting throughout which gives the entire production a comfortable flow and makes it easy to follow. The only point in the show which threw me off was when Josh's love interest, Susan (played fantastically by Diana Vickers), performed a song about her first love in 'Little Susan Lawrence' after spending the night at a 'sleepover' with Josh. I understand she was self-reflecting during this number but it dragged a little and seemed quite irrelavant. The show could've easily done without this sequence, but Diana Vicker's stellar vocals did make it somewhat worthwhile. 

The music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby,Jr was enjoyable. Each song that was performed was well formed and fit the story well (in most cases). Favourites of mine include 'My Secretary's In Love', 'Cross The Line' and 'Coffee Black' which had me tapping my feet along to the fantastic orchestra. However, as soon as I stepped out of the theatre I had forgotten the majority of the music. It was good but not very memorable at all which is a shame. 

The most memorable and exciting parts of the show for me was the ensemble pieces. The stage was very large and the cast filled it with so much energy through portrayals of everything from toy soldiers to executive office workers. The choreography by Morgan Young/ Helen Rymer was so much fun and the ensemble performed it with such skill and effervesence. 

The quality of staging was fantastic (designed by Simon Higlett). The Lyric stage of the Theatre Royal Plymouth was transformed and made to look five times bigger than usual with use of a curved stage. The use of a floor revolve was cleverly done to change sets as well as provide movement aid for the characters. The set was so intricate and life-like, alongside the use of tech screen panels to project backdrop videos. The combination of technology, traditional set, props and the revolve added so much dimension to the story and production as a whole. The design was by far my favourite aspect of the whole show.

This show was packed with an all-star cast which really intrigued and excited me. 

Jay McGuiness makes his stage debut as Big Josh Baskin and wins the audience over with his charming personality. He is fantastic at portraying the young-hearted character with great humour and boyish delight. His dancing skills were slick and he effortlessly kept up with the high-energy ensemble in routines such as 'Cross The Line' and 'Coffee Black' but I think his voice is too soft and raspy to tackle some of Josh's belter songs. The songs were big and one after another and sometimes his voice just wasn't strong enough to keep up. I'm not sure how much of it was affected by opening night nerves, and whether his voice will develop to the role more throughout the run, but his skills were more suited to the acting and dancing last night. 

Jay's leading lady was Diana Vickers who played up-tight office executive/ turned lover, Susan Lawrence. Diana surprisingly stole the show for me. She lit up the stage with her quirky and loveable character and her vocals were outstanding. She seamlessly participated in some of the dance routines too. Diana just got the character SO right, even more so than the original film character I think. What a performance. 

Other stars of the show include Jessica Martin as the humorous yet loveable Mrs Baskin, Gary Wilmot played company CEO George MacMillan- the old executive who bursts with boyish energy and Irwin Sparkes (of The Hoosiers) who nailed the role of douchebag Paul Seymour with such great comedic timing. The team of young children in the show were outstanding, especially Keir Edkins-O'Brien who played Josh's best friend and cheeky chappy, Billy Kopecki. 

Overall, I thought that Big The Musical was a great production. Its a light-hearted show that bursts with energy left, right and centre. Although I was somewhat disappointed with some of the music and singing performances, I think it has such great potential and I really hope it continues to develop as it progresses throughout the tour. 

Its here at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until 12 November then moves onto Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin from 7th December- 7th January. I would definitely recommend a visit to check out this show, as it brings a much-loved story to life. 

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I have been informed that Jay McGuiness performed with a cold in this performance. 


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  2. Lovely review - enjoyed hearing all your thoughts and am very glad the production is a success.
    p.s. Hope J recovers from his cold soon.

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