Back in April, it was announced that the Broadway musical Big, based on the classic 1988 movie starring Tom Hanks, would be making its European premiere in Plymouth. With an all-star cast, including Jay McGuiness, Gary Wilmot and Diana Vickers, the show promised to enchant audiences of all ages. We went along to the final show at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal to witness the magic for ourselves.
Big tells the story of 12-year-old Josh Baskin, who is fed up of being small. One night, he goes to the carnival and makes a wish on a mysterious Zoltar machine, and to his horror, when he wakes up in the morning, he realises that his wish has been granted and that he is now an adult. Josh is trapped in a grown up’s body and must try and find his way around New York. Along the way, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt for both Josh and the people he meets.
Strictly Come Dancing champion and The Wanted star Jay McGuiness stars as big Josh, and we’re pretty certain that he was made for the role. From the moment he appeared on stage in his shrunken pyjamas, he completely captured the childlike essence of Josh. He made us laugh, he made us feel like we were twelve again, and he may have melted our hearts of stone to the point where we shed a tear or two.
We already know that he can sing, from his time in The Wanted, and it was great to hear his voice in the spotlight. His Strictly experience was also put to good use, as the production featured several entertaining dance sequences of which he excelled. He stood out as one of the best dancers, which was not a surprise, and performed each routine with such enthusiasm. We particularly enjoyed the routines to ‘Cross The Line’ and ‘Coffee, Black’, of which the entire cast had a chance to shine.
Whilst we enjoyed his singing and dancing, we must also commend him for his acting ability. During his time on Strictly, he occasionally came under fire from the judges for his lack of acting and facial expressions. However, any concerns we had were immediately thrown out of the window, as he nailed every emotion during Big. From the horror of waking up in the morning, to the fear of being alone in the big city, to the pure joy at letting loose in the toy shop, McGuiness made us feel every emotion that Josh felt. He truly is a triple threat, and we couldn’t think of a better casting.
The rest of the all-star cast were equally as fantastic in their roles. Jessica Martin stars as Mrs Baskin, and delivered a great performance. Mums in the audience will resonate with the feeling of watching your children grow up too quickly, and whether you have kids or not, every person in the audience felt her pain when Josh was supposedly kidnapped.
Theatre legend Gary Wilmot appeared as George Macmillan, the boss of Macmillan toy company. He gave a loveable and fun performance, providing us with one of the stand out moments when he re-enacted the famous piano scene with Josh.
Diana Vickers was brilliant as Susan, Josh’s love interest. Her vocals, in particular, were spellbinding, especially during ‘Little Susan Lawrence’. She portrayed a range of emotions, whilst remaining as her prim and proper character. Her chemistry with McGuiness was sweet, but we also enjoyed her camaraderie with Irwin Sparkes, who played Paul. We must give Sparkes a special mention too. The Hoosiers star had a smaller role in the production, however, he proved to be incredibly entertaining.
The production also featured a lot of children. The boys who played little Josh and Billy were brilliant, and the children’s ensemble was incredibly energetic. We must point out their professionalism too – during a full-on dance sequence, one of the boys’ hats started to slip from his head but he wasn’t fazed at all. He continued to dance with gusto despite the little hiccup, and it was great to see him carry on despite how annoying it must have been.
As well as an incredible cast, the staging was absolutely superb. We didn’t really know what to expect beforehand, but we were blown away by the revolving stage and scenery, which made for a slick production. Whilst there had been some technical difficulties earlier in the week, everything was perfect on Saturday night, and the fluidity of the staging added to the magic.
The show was incredible for kids and big kids alike. The cast and staging were incredibly impressive, and we also loved the musical score. In fact, we’re still singing ‘Cross The Line’ days later. Whether you’re 8 or 80, there is no doubt that you will be entranced by this wonderful production.
Whilst the show’s run has come to an end in Plymouth, you can catch it at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin, between December 7 and January 7, before it hits the West End next year.
Check out the official Big trailer below.