WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE? Dominion Theatre RUNTIME: 160 minutes (including 20-minute interval)
WHEN? 2/10, closes 2/11/19
Fans of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing are especially well served here by a former winner of the Saturday night ratings hit as the leading man and a finalist as his leading lady.
- Read on for reasons including how McGuiness combines wide-eyed naivety with dancing as good as Charlie Stemp’s
Indeed the dancing in this show appears more dialled up than one would normally expect with McGuiness jumping as high and impressively as Charlie Stemp and displaying a winning, wide-eyed naivety that is vital to this challenging acting role.
It is however far from the most challenging element of this 1996 musical adaptation of the 1988 film which starred Tom Hanks. It’s the story of 12-year-old Josh Bakin (McGuiness) whose body transforms into a man’s overnight after he makes a wish to a funfair machine.
Josh finds employment at a toy firm and falls into a relationship with a co-worker played by Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh who is as reliable here as she has been in starring roles in similar musicals-spawned-by-movies Shrek and Elf.
Walsh’s latest role was sent-up both affectionately and hilariously on the latest Gals Aloud tour and we’re especially looking forward to the moment Cheryl Hole locks eyes with her near-namesake on the debut series of the fabulous RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
Big The Musical has not been without its challenges making its way from screen to stage, opening on Broadway in April 1996 and closing just six months later after five Tony nominations.
We haven’t seen the movie in a while but the moment when Baskin meets his future employer (Matthew Kelly is both camp and loveable) and they bond over their enthusiasm over playing a larger-than-life piano is memorable.
Wendi Peters as the boy’s mum proves what an outstanding musical theatre actress she is and her pain at losing him is expressed most memorably during song Stop, Time.
But, while there are indeed memorable moments here, we would have expected better songs from the musical incarnation of such a well-loved film. Cross The Line works well as both icebreaker between the adults and children and finale but the earworms are less insistent than we would like.
Our biggest problem, however, is with the way Walsh’s character casually dismisses the law she has potentially broken by dating the 12-year-old Josh in a man’s body.
In an era when some of our most beloved musicals are being tweaked to make them feel more relevant to today, this very much seems like an opportunity missed. Big The Musical? It’s a medium for us.
- Picture via Facebook courtesy BIG The Musical Tickets
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I just luv this musical and what makes it so endearing and a joy to watch is the fact it doesn’t conform to all the other musicals in the West End, it doesn’t need tweaking, it is fun. Jay McGuiness is an absolute star and I don’t think Charlie Stemp’s dancing is anywhere near as good. The connection between Jay and Kimberley is fabulous and I didn’t get the impression the reality of their relationship was casually dismissed at all but very sympathetically portrayed. Wendi Peters is an absolute joy and Matthew Kelly plays his part well.
The songs are great and the whole production is amazing. I hope it goes back to the WE next year for a longer run.