November 14, 2023
Review: Plenty to Enjoy in 'Big – The Musical'
Joe Siegel READ TIME: 3 MIN.
The Community Players has launched their 102nd season with "Big – The Musical," a genial and high-spirited entertainment.
Based on the hit movie starring Tom Hanks, the story is about young Josh Baskin, who soon realizes you ought to be careful what you wish for.
Josh and his friend Billy (wonderfully played by Ethan Kerwin) attend a carnival in suburban New Jersey. Disappointed after failing to meet the height requirement for a ride, a furious Josh goes to the Zoltar fortune telling booth and wishes to be big. Before you can blink, Josh wakes up in his bed as a full-grown adult. Josh's mother (Kristen Bond) is horrified to see a grown man in her house.
Josh flees to Manhattan, with Billy in tow. He wins over a toy company owner, the robust and larger-than-life MacMillan (Terry Shea), with his youthful exuberance and love of toys. Just as in the movie, Josh dances on a giant keyboard at a toy store. It's a delightful moment.
Director Paul Nolette, working from a book by John Weidman and a score by David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr., keeps the action moving swiftly and generates uniformly strong work from the large ensemble.
Tyler Rebello is tremendously engaging and likable as the adult Josh (Matthew McGuirl plays Josh as a boy), who gets a dream job at the toy company and falls in love with high-powered executive Susan (Melanie Gendreau).
Susan is mildly surprised to see bunk beds in Josh's apartment. His idea of romance is completely foreign to her. Susan's attempt to seduce a 13-year-old boy is largely played for laughs.
"Big The Musical" debuted in 1996. The movie was released in 1988 – which means some of the cultural references are now a little dated. Maybe the prospect of an adult woman having sexual relations with a teenage boy didn't seem like a big deal then, but it's very uncomfortable to watch now.
The writers also fail to supply a suitable antagonist for Josh. Soon after he arrives at the company, he earns the wrath of a slimy executive named Paul (Jonathan Hart), who resents his success at testing toys. Paul digs up Josh's resume and shows it to Susan to prove Josh is a fraud. However, this subplot is forgotten about so the show can focus instead on Josh's enjoyment of his job and his romantic pursuit of Susan.
Simply put, there aren't enough obstacles placed in Josh's way. He gets everything he wants, so there is no doubt he will locate the Zoltar machine and be changed back into a boy again. As a result, the resolution of the story is a major anti-climax. We never even see how the toy company employees react to having been tricked by a 13-year-old.
There is still plenty to enjoy in this production. The musicians, under the direction of Brittany Dyer, are in top form. "The Time of Your Life" and "Fun" were undoubtedly the show's best moments, featuring choreography by Leslie Vazquez.
Best of all was the way Rebello brought a zany energy to all his scenes. That sparkle in his eyes and infectious sense of joy make "Big – The Musical" a fun way to spend an evening.
"Big – The Musical" runs through November 19. The Community Players. Performances held at Jenks Auditorium. 350 Division St., Pawtucket, RI. For tickets, visit thecommunityplayers.net.
Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.