Big the Musical (Dominion Theatre)

Big was one of the success stories in 80s cinema, making a huge star of Tom Hanks and his little boy becomes a man story.

Now the film becomes a musical, and is currently in residence at the huge Dominion Theatre. Not being officially invited to review this, and baulking somewhat at the higher priced tickets (where you can what’s going on), I booked myself on the very back row.

This was my view, which wasn’t bad, but if I didn’t know who was on stage, I’d be none the wiser. As I said, the Dominion is huge.

On to the show. It has fairly big name stars, with Jay McGuiness, Kimberley Walsh, Wendi Peters and Matthew Kelly in the cast. They are all very good indeed, with McGuiness and Kelly striving to catch the fun in the piece, and Peters providing a touching moment on her absent son’s birthday.

Jay McGuiness and Marthew Kelly in Big - the Musical
Jay McGuiness and Marthew Kelly in Big – the Musical

What it doesn’t have, really, are memorable songs, or any sense of pacing. The much-lauded piano sequence raises a smile but it comes in too early and lacks that showstopping factor, and sadly the first half comes almost to a stop despite everyone’s best efforts.

The second half becomes problematic when Josh (still a 13 year old boy, in a man’s body) takes up with Susan (Walsh) and becomes sexually involved. This feels unsettling in a family musical which sells toys in the shop and has a wishing machine of its own.

Ensemble of Big - the Musical
Ensemble of Big – the Musical

The good points are few and far between: McGuiness finding with horror he now has body hair and a post-pubersent body is exactly how a teen might react; the carnival game’s genie is animated well and is fairly horrific; the dance at the Christmas party has a touch of energy; and Josh’s final transition scene leaves a lump in the throat, as he leaves Susan in the rain to run back to his home, bed, Mom and life.

Big – the Musical just doesn’t have the wow factor, and at times is plain boring. It could easily lose an hour off a bloated running time and needs to be less confused about its audience. It also needs to utilise its child performers more – Jamie O’Connor as young Josh at the matinee I saw, and especially Jobe Hart as Billy.

Joby Hart and Jay McGuiness in Big - the Musical
Joby Hart and Jay McGuiness in Big – the Musical

Ultimately I wished for more oomph and pizazz, The wishing sequence and the auditorium flooded with stars promised it, but otherwise all was lost. Even the revolving stage started to disappoint – the toy shop worker dance, for example, could have used it better, and in one scene, cast members were seen wandering to the back of the revolve for the next scene set-up!

David Shire and Richard Maltby wrote music and lyrics for Big – the Musical, which continues at the Dominion until 2 November 2019. Shop around for some very good discounts.

Photo credits: Alastair Muir