Big The Musical, doesn’t feel big, it feels hollow. Big follows the journey of a young Josh Baskin (Jamie O’Connor) until, as Tom Hanks did before him, Jay McGuinness of The Wanted fame takes the lead and stumbles alongside the audience into a world of adulthood at the children’s toy company, McMillan. Whilst his friend Billy, played by the brilliant and boisterous Jobe Hart, desperately tries to get him out of his ill-advised wish, Josh revels at the opportunities that come from being big.
Perhaps some films are better left in the past, not all jokes age well and some don’t bear repeating. Big certainly originates from the 80’s, it contains inappropriate jokes that get a collective intake of breath from the audience, not to mention the obviously problematic relationship between the two leads. Regardless of its moment of self-awareness, Susan, played Girls Aloud alum Kimberley Walsh, cries out “I’m going to go to jail!” after Josh’s mere 13 years on the earth are revealed, casting a severe downer on their budding romance. Big’s prevalence of humour fails to overshadow the awkward coupling.
It’s lack of age appropriateness is only worsened by an obvious lack of chemistry between Josh and Susan. Whilst it is debatable as to whether a 13 year old boy in a man’s body and a middle aged working woman should indeed create the perfect pair, there fails to be a glaring reason for their relationship to entice Josh to leave his entire family and best friend back in New Jersey – is New York really worth it? Or was it the sex that did it? Again, this is a 13-year-old boy.
Maybe withholding judgement is necessary in this instance, one needs to suspend disbelief in the face of the author’s (Josh Weidman) sheer audacity to persevere in producing a musical which thrives on old fashioned stereotypes; the working girl who can’t find a good man to settle down with, the toxic insistence at a distinction between boys and girl’s toys, not to mention the outcry that would have come about if the gender roles had been reversed, an issue with inherent problems of its own.
The musical, at heart, is enjoyable and truly contains flashes of comedic wit. The introduction of Susan’s best friends is a hilariously awful and judgemental moment of realism which captures a perfect weirdness, a feat largely to do with the company’s synchronicity. Big also has an abundance of jolly dance numbers dominated by the younger members of the cast, and one or two seconds of soulful recollection. However, no number really springs to mind after the curtain closes.
The ensemble remains as the shining stars, with big lungs and big voices, the boy who went big himself fails to deliver. Whether Walsh and McGuinness, previous girl and boy band figures, are simply failing to transfer their skills onto stage or whether they’re not cut out for the spotlight, they remain overshadowed by their counterpart company members. However, maybe we can’t put it down to them, perhaps Big is just not meant for the big stage.
Big The Musical is playing The Dominion Theatre until 2 November. For more information and tickets, visit the Big The Musical website.