PADOS are back at The Met in Bury this week to present the North West premiere of BIG – The Musical. Based upon the iconic ’80s film starring Tom Hanks, it tells the story of Josh Baskin, a twelve year old boy who hates being little, until one night at the carnival the mysterious Zoltar machine grants his wish to be BIG.
Trapped in an adult’s body and alone in New York, he innocently tries to find his way around a grown-up world where it’s all work and no play. I have to admit, I have never seen the film version of this show, so I walked into the theatre with just a basic grasp of the story.
PADOS have invested heavily in this production with a full stage video wall across the back which became essential in telling the story. I guess the thinking behind this was to minimise the set changes as the action jumped from location to location, however the number of props used cluttered up the stage at times taking away the benefits of the wall. In saying this the props used were clever and versatile and huge credit should go to the team for the authentic looking 80’s toys.
As the show opens we see best friends Josh (Joshua Ord) and Billy (a confident Elliot Mills) in their bedrooms communicating with each other over Walkie Talkies (remember them). It’s clear Josh is growing up fast and has a crush on local girl Cynthia which renders him speechless whenever they meet. A trip to a travelling fair sees Josh muster the courage to speak to Cynthia only to find out she has a date with a 16 year old. Upset with this news Josh seeks out a Zoltar machine and makes a wish to be big!
The next morning when Josh awakes his clothes don’t fit, he’s grown body hair and has become a man! Peter J Rigney now assumes the role of adult Josh and the panic at his situation is played out with the fear and nervousness wonderfully. Rigney has been allowed to regress back to his own childhood for this role and it is clear to see he is enjoying himself on stage. The decision to run away to New York and find the Zoltan machine in order to reverse the wish opens up a whole new world to Josh
While in New York a chance meeting with Mr Macmillan (Keith McEvoy) the boss of a struggling toy company the child in Josh explains what children like in toys and ends up landing himself a job at the company, a plush office and an apartment to live in. Here we meet Susan Lawrence (Esme Mather), head of marketing at the company who has just ended a relationship with Paul Seymour (David Livesey) and on the rebound falls for the now adult Josh. Mather as Susan lights up the stage at every opportunity she gets with a powerful voice, she really shines in this production.
As the story unfolds the pair grow closer, something Josh finds hard to deal with due to his tender years. A disastrous night out with Susan’s friends finally convinces Josh how unprepared he is to live in the adult world and the truth of his predicament finally gets revealed.
BIG is a great family musical. There are no songs sadly that will leave a lasting impression as you leave the theatre but this does not detract from the enjoyment of the show. Clever direction from Mark Rosenthal and choreography from Helen Wilkinson make the best use of the cramped stage and enthusiastic company.
Returning to the set, one of the highlights of the show is the dance routine performed on the piano keyboard by Rigney and McEvoy. It is clear a lot of hours have been put into perfecting this piece and also the construction of it and was a joy to watch.
This is a show with a huge heart and performed by a very talented company. Running until Saturday 28th April missing it would be a BIG mistake! http://www.pados.co.uk/
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 25th April 2018