Theatre Mirror Reviews "Big"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Turtle Lane Playhouse is "Big, the Musical".Big, the musical is a musical adaptation of the 1988 Tom Hanks film "Big". It was directed by Mike Ockrent with music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and choreography by Susan Stroman. This hit movie bursts onstage in this vibrant, funny and touching musical. The Broadway show opened on April 28, 1996 and ran for 193 performances. The story is about a 12-year-old boy, Josh Baskin, a sweet natured seventh-grader and frustrated adolescent, aware that he is trailing the rest of his classmates, impulsively wishes that he could be "BIG" and grows up overnight after being granted a wish by a "Zoltar Speaks" machine at a carnival. He wishes he were big and wakes up the next morning a 30-year-old man, stuffed into little boy's pajamas. Unable to explain this metamorphosis to his mother, he runs away to New York with the connivance of his best friend, Billy, and lands a job, fame and fortune at MacMillan Toy Company, where his unerring instincts about which toys would really be fun clash with the views of the statistics-laden MBA types who have been running the company into the ground. But does Josh really like being an adult, even if it gives him the freedom to stay up late and throw his broccoli in the sink? And is there any future in his romance with the sophisticated young woman from marketing? Josh discovers there's much more to being an adult than he bargained for and learns we must all grow up at our own pace. With the aid of his best friend, Billy, Josh must cope with his new adulthood while finding another "Zoltar" machine so that he can wish himself a kid again. Director Jeff Kubiatowicz casts these roles beautifully while Bobbie Hoffmann not only conducts a six piece orchestra but plays lead keyboards for the show and choreographer Julia Fiske comes up with inventive dances including soft shoe, Charleston, twist and many others for this high energy and heartwarming musical. It receives a thunderous ovation at the close of the show.

The script is stronger in the second act than in the first act but the topnotch talented performers overcome this deficit with high energy performances both comic and poignant. The transformation of Josh causes a series of humorous, inspiring and bittersweet events to occur. Both adult and child chorus show off their prowess as singers and dancers throughout the show. Mark Estano is terrific as the man-child. He captures the youthful spirit of the character and shows great depth in the dramatic moments as well as the comic ones. A couple of his funniest moments are when he pukes caviar and spits champagne as well as when he crashes a BMW, entering with the headlight. This makes him realizes he isn't ready to stay a grown-up. Mark as Big Josh sings"You're a Big Boy Now" with Billy about how he doesn't have to eat broccoli and can do what he wants, "Do You Want to Play Games", where he innocently asks Susan to spend the night and play board games, "Stars", a beautiful ballad when he shows Susan the constellation, ''Cross the Line", where the owner wants children and adults to work together which turns into a huge dance number to close Act 1. In Act 2, Mark joins in on "I Want to Know", what love is while he dances with Susan, "Coffee Black", is an exuberant number which sounds like "Blow Gabriel Blow", turns into a song and dance number with the adult chorus and the emotionally draining and touching "We're Gonna Be Fine" which is a love song about saying goodbye for the last time. The most amazing thing is Mark stepped into this part two weeks before opening and learned this enormous part in that short time span. Bravo on a job very well done.

The little boy who plays Little Josh is quite talented, too. Ryan Cook as Little Josh sings "Can't Wait" about wanting to grow up quickly to be free of his parent's bossiness. The parents and children join in this opening number. Ryan's next song is with Sebastian as Billy about his inner feelings about Cynthia in "Talk to Her" He also sings the poignant "I Want to Know" with Mark as Big Josh. "Can't Wait" is also sung by Lee Carter Browne as Mrs. Baskin. She is a pretty red head who I last reviewed as Pam in "The Full Monty" earlier this year. Lee sings "Say Good Morning to Mom" and "Stop Time" which she sings on Josh's 13th birthday with him still missing. This latter song tugs at your heartstrings at its tender rendition. The closing scene is another tear jerker moment in the show.

One of the best vocalists in this show is Liz Pasarilla as Susan. Her soaring soprano voice is astounding as she sings "Let's Not Move Too Fast", when she goes to Josh's apartment and "Stars", becomes a romantic ballad. Susan reminisces about her first love in fifth grade, Buzz Babcock in "Little Susan Lawrence", "Dancing All the Time" is when she falls madly in love with Josh and "We're Gonna Be Fine" is a gorgeous ballad about never seeing each other again. I look forward to seeing Liz in many future shows. Sebastian Hoffman steals quite a few scenes as Little Josh's best friend,Billy. I first reviewed him as Gavorche in "Les Miserables" at North Shore Music Theatre in 2007. His acting is marvelous and he gets to shine in this show especially in his comic lines to both Joshes and in his poignant scene with Mrs. Baskin. The children do a dynamite job with the opening of Act 1, "Can't Wait" and in Act 2, Billy's rap song "It's Time" which is awesome and it stops the show with Sebastian's singing and dancing with them. Another terrific number is "The Nightmare". Gorgeous blonde, Kat Ward plays Cynthia Benson, the object of young Josh's affection.

Two other fun filled songs are "Fun" and "The Real Thing". The first is sung by Mark as Josh and Lance Wesley as Mr. MacMillan. They sing and dance on a huge piano on stage, doing chopsticks as well as doing a soft shoe dance to it. Lance is wonderful as the owner of the Toy Company. The latter number is done in perfect four part harmony by Tim McShea, Aidan Nevin, Kadie Greenfield and Courtney Blanch and sounds like a Mozart number. They play Susan's best friends who have to okay Josh for her. The villain of the show is Paul,Susan's co-worker and ex-lover after she meets Josh. He is well played by Colin Gillis. Kudos to the whole cast and crew who do a topnotch job in this show. So for a musical the whole family can enjoy, be sure to catch "Big, the Musical" before time runs out.

"Big" (9 - 30 December)
@ 283 Melrose Street, NEWTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide