It only took eight years for the iconic eighties movie about a boy who finds himself as an adult overnight, and starring Tom Hanks, to be adapted for the stage. But it would be another twenty years before Big The Musical made it to the UK, and following it’s runs in Plymouth and Dublin in 2016, the feel good musical comedy arrives at the Dominion Theatre with Jay McGuiness reprising the leading role.
John Weidman’s adaptation sticks pretty closely to the original movie (which I used to beg my Mum to rent on VHS every Saturday night). Young Josh Baskin is on the cusp of adolescence, but still isn’t tall enough to get on the fairground ride that will get him a date with the girl of his dreams. When he comes across the fortune teller machine, Zoltar he asks to be ‘big’ and, overnight, his wish is granted, he’s now a young man and no one believes his story.
With the help of friend Billy, he lands himself a job at a toy company where he eventually meets the woman of his dreams, but of course, as we all know being an adult isn’t as great as you imagine in childhood, and Josh longs to go back to his old life.
What is inevitably different from the film version is the addition of music, and the score from veteran duo David Shire and Richard Maltby is upbeat and eighties pastiche, with a nice mix of up-tempo numbers and more delicate ballads, ‘Stars’ is particularly endearing, while ‘Coffee Black’ showed the talents of the whole company.
Big The Musical has some impressive dance routines, choreographed by director Morgan Young and fans of the original movie need not be disappointed, that instantly recognisable scene with the giant foot operated piano has made it in to the stage version too! The revolving set with animated backgrounds makes for seamless transitions, and there’s a little stage magic involved too.
There are occasional moments which felt a little flat, the dinner party scene didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose for example, and some of the bigger moments lacked a little oomph. But these lulls are mostly outweighed by the big song and dance numbers, or the intimate moments between Josh and Susan.
Wendi Peters is delightful as Mrs Baskin, her role is mostly comic but we also see the heartbreak she feels when her son is missing, with a fantastic solo of ‘Stop Time’. Matthew Kelly shows what he’s capable of with a hilarious and confident George McMillan.
Josh’s adult love interest, Susan is played by former Girls Aloud member Kimberley Walsh, who demonstrated not only fantastic vocal abilities, but a real presence on the stage. Jay McGuiness, also a former chart-topper, shows an equally strong affinity for performing. His childlike naivety as Josh is utterly charming, and in the conversations between Josh and Billy, it feels like natural interactions between two thirteen-year-olds.
With such fond memories of the movie, I worried that Big The Musical might not live up to it’s much bigger predecessor, but this stage version is just as loveable. It is undoubtedly an immensely enjoyable crowd-pleaser, which is both heart-warming and endearing.