Long before Hairspray, Billy Elliot and Footloose made their way to the Great White Way, Big made the giant leap from screen to the musical stage. The classic comedy about a boy who makes a wish on an arcade game that made Tom Hanks a household name made its debut on Broadway in 1996. The story was re-imagined for the stage by John Weidman with Music by David Shire and Lyrics by one of Broadway’s most prolific contributors, Richard Maltby, Jr. The show enjoyed limited success in New York, but has become a staple in high school and community theaters. Last night Music Theatre of Louisville production premiered this bright and colorful musical that compares the youth we once lived to the youth we yearn to live again. This final production of the 2011 summer season is directed by the company’s associate artistic director Andrew Harris.
Just in case you never saw the movie, the plot is easy to follow. Twelve-year old Josh Baskin (Henry Miller) is sick of being a little kid. He doesn’t like following his mom’s rules. Mrs. Baskin is played by the elegant and talented Colette Delaney. Also, Josh isn’t too crazy about the fact that the girl that he likes is dating a guy who can drive or the fact that he isn’t big enough for carnival rides. Luck is on his side, or so he thinks, when he finds a Zoltar machine. This machine grants him any wish he desires. You guessed it. He wishes to be big. Well the next morning he wakes up to find that his wish certainly came true. Tyler Bliss plays big Josh. As Josh, Bliss does not imitate Tom Hanks’ iconic role but plays the comic gags with the same spirit while adding his own wonder and innocence. With the help of his street wise best friend, Billy Kopecki (Gylf Forsberg) Josh tries to find the Zoltar machine with hopes that it will change him back. Seems pretty easy right? In addition to wishing to change back, Josh must face the real world. A world that he may or may not be ready for or fit into quite so soon in his life.
Josh serves as a link between kids and adults. Unintentionally fooling his boss at the toy company, played with glee and giddiness by Kevin Swansey, big Josh takes his company in directions never before seen. Adam Yankowy plays Paul Seymour, a jealous coworker who has been desperately trying to work his way to the top of the corporate world. Driven by suspicion and greed, Yankowy is a devious and ruthless foil to the innocent hero. Mary Kate Young is the office flirt, Susan Lawrence. As she unknowingly ushers Josh into the adult world, the chemistry shared between Young and Bliss provide some of the strongest moments musically and comically. “Let’s Not Move Too Fast”, “Do You Want to Play Games” and “Stars”, provide the sweetness of their budding romance. The strongest moment between Young and Bliss is their final number together in “We’re Going to be Fine,” a love song about saying goodbye for the last time.
The amazing spirit of this production lies within the children’s chorus of the show. Providing copious amounts of energy and fun, the musical numbers like “The time of your life,” “Fun” and “The Nightmare,” left me wanting more. The strongest number combined the adults and children at the end of the first act with “Cross the Line.” Bliss, dressed in the iconic white-tailed tuxedo, and the children ended the act with an exuberant and fantastic bang. big The Musical at Musical Theater of Louisville provides a fun performance for anyone who is young or young at heart.
Watch an interview with director Andrew Harris and see excerpts from the Music Theatre Louisville Production of big, the musical at www.Arts-Louisville.com
big The Musical
August 9-14, 7:00 p.m.; Matinees, August 14, 1:30 p.m.
Music Theatre of Louisville
The Bomhard Theatre at Kentucky Center for the Arts
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