Dominion Theatre, London – booking until 2 November 2019
Big, Tom Hanks iconic 1988, American, fantasy, comedy film about a boy in a man’s world, captured everybody’s hearts and imaginations with its innocence and charm.
But, fast forward 30 years and there’s something quite unsettling about watching a middle-aged woman falling in love with a naive, child-like, young man with the soul of a 13-year-old.
Big the Musical, the 1996 much rewritten Broadway flop, has finally premiered at the Dominion Theatre, in London – three years after it had brief runs in Dublin and Plymouth. It doesn’t take much thought to realise why it has taken so long for this multi award-nominated, but also one of Broadway’s costliest money-losers, to make the West End. It stinks.
From its lack-lustre musical numbers and weak singing to its leaden dialogue and old fashioned direction, there is little to recommend it.
Jay McGuiness, star of The Wanted and Strictly, plays Josh Baskin, who gets his wish to be big to impress a girl. He shows some fancy footwork in the occasional dance numbers but fails miserably to connect with his inner child.
It isn’t long before you forget that he’s supposed to be 12-going-on-13, particularly when he’s hitting on 37-year-old Kimberley Walsh who plays hard-headed exec Susan Lawrence.
The musical, like the film, is set in the 1980s, but it still appears very dated, opening with a mini-medley from the orchestra before we’re assailed by precocious theatre school kids with their awful, overblown US accents (so strong it was difficult to understand their dialogue).
Stage and screen actress, Wendi Peters, lifts the mood briefly with a good comic turn as Baskin’s mother. But she’s then bundled off after the first few scenes and only returns for the finale. Matthew Kelly does his best as the eccentric toy company boss who hires Baskin to breath new life into the business, but he’s hampered by a poor script.
There’s little fun or warmth in the plot. It’s uninteresting, soulless and dreary, with the life and lightness sucked out of it. Walsh, of Girls Aloud, had her fan club in last night, but her character is formulaic and one-dimensional.
Big, the film, holds a special place in everyone’s hearts but this musical version is out of step and time.
Running at Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, until November 2.
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