Tag Archives: Colin Burnicle

Big the Musical

Big the Musical


Dominion Theatre

Big the Musical

Big the Musical

Dominion Theatre

Reviewed – 18th September 2019



“The book and score are entirely forgettable; the rhymes from a Hallmark card and devoid of wit or charm”


In 1996, eight years after the now legendary film, starring Tom Hanks, hit American screens, Big – The Musical premiered on Broadway. Nearly 25 years later, Morgan Young, director, choreographer and chief architect of this Dominion production, has finally realised his dream to bring it to the London stage. It has not aged well. Despite the inordinate amount of money clearly spent on this production, and a few very good performances, the whole show seems distinctly creaky, and slightly tawdry too, like a ride at a cheap fairground on which you slightly fear for your safety.

The story is that of 12 year old Josh Baskin (Jay McGuiness), who, sick of being small, makes a wish at a travelling carnival to be big, and wakes up in the morning with the body of a full-grown man. Fleeing from his terrified mother (Wendi Peters), who fails to recognise him, and with the aid of his best friend Billy (Jobe Hart in last night’s performance), he winds up in New York, where he rises to success at an ailing toy company owned by George MacMillan (Matthew Kelly), getting romantically entangled with Susan (Kimberley Walsh) along the way, before returning to his real age and his home. It’s a fairly slight tale, and the message, such as it is, is sentimental stuff – hang on to your childhood, don’t grow up too fast, and bring the honesty and playfulness of childhood into your adult life. Grown-ups get a pretty bad press in this fable all in all; the apogee of this being the dreadful yuppie dinner party in act two, in which, inexplicably, the supporting men appear to be dressed as versions of Alan Partridge. Sophisticated it isn’t; that quality being distinctly off-message it would appear.

The overall look of the show is disappointing, and the decision to use huge video screens as the centre piece of each scene is a mistake. It distracts from and deadens the action, and also, importantly, takes away from any attempt at intimacy. We are always at a big stadium gig, even in the show’s more tender moments, which serves them badly. The lighting doesn’t help either. All of which underlines the question continually in mind – ‘Why is this a musical?’. It feels like a musical by numbers because that’s exactly what it is. A traditional musical structure has been superimposed on a film narrative. And it doesn’t work. The book and score are entirely forgettable; the rhymes from a Hallmark card and devoid of wit or charm. The only moments to draw widespread audience laughter are in the spoken dialogue. Not a good sign.

The principals are well-cast and work hard. Jay McGuiness perfectly embodies the child-in-man Josh; Kimberley Walsh softens beautifully from power-dressed executive to the girl looking for love she so clearly is, and Matthew Kelly gives a tremendous turn as Macmillan. Wendi Peters is a consummate professional and lends performance oomph to a pretty scant role, but, as with the kids in the cast, she is of the strident MT singing style, which arguably runs counter to emotional depth. Jobe Hart did, however, stand out as Billy last night and most certainly has a musical theatre future. It’s a shame that all this professionalism serves such an underwhelming show.

Finally, it is more than disappointing to see an all-white adult chorus in a West End musical in 2019 (representing the working population of NEW YORK!), as it is to see the only transvestite/transexual character equated with the rotten underbelly of the city. Theatre at this level has no excuse not to do better.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Alastair Muir


Big the Musical

Dominion Theatre until 2nd November


Recent shows covered by this reviewer:


Bare: A Pop Opera | ★★★ | June 2019
Becoming The Invisible Woman | ★★ | June 2019
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | June 2019
Chiflón, The Silence of the Coal | ★★★★ | July 2019
Grey | ★★ | July 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Once On This Island | ★★★ | August 2019
The Weatherman | ★★★ | August 2019
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – Programme A | ★★★★ | September 2019
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – Programme C | ★★★★ | September 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Midnight – 5 Stars



Union Theatre

Reviewed – 11th September 2018


“a highly impactful, beautifully-crafted musical”


It is the last moments of 1937 in Soviet Azerbaijan and the clocks have stopped. The neighbour has just been taken away but Man (Colin Burnicle) works for the Party and has just received protection. Him and Woman (Norma Butikofer) are ready to open their black market champagne when they hear a knock on the door. Someone has a quota to fill. And he isn’t from the NKVD.

Based on the play ‘Citizens of Hell’ by one of Azerbaijan’s leading literary voices, Elchin, Timothy Knapman (book and lyrics) and Laurence Mark Wythe (music and lyrics) have created a highly impactful, beautifully-crafted musical. What are people prepared to do to survive, it asks, and how many lies are people prepared to tell those closest to them? As the couple are forced to face what they have each done, a harsh light is shone on this culture of fear and the limits that it pushes people to.

The fantastic actor-musician ensemble, dusted in white, edge the space, a perpetual haunting presence as they revolve between victims of the purges, colleagues and friends. Leon Scott’s visitor is enthralling onstage. He has an infectious presence and an irresistible charm, that feels wonderfully dichotomous against the chaos and confusion he leaves in his wake. Burnicle and Butikofer as the couple cracking beneath the pressure of their revelations, deliver nuanced and convincing performances, as the characters are pushed to their extremes.

Elliot Squire’s set raises their apartment just slightly, a traditional setting complete with a lounge area and dining table. The edges of this space are illuminated, a contemporary finish that creates a thin boundary between the ever-present ensemble and the central set. Stalin’s image hangs large and high above the stage.

It’s an unusual topic for a musical but one that translates surprisingly well. The score meanders between eerie musical moments lead by the ensemble, playful musical comedy segments, and more moving ballads from the couple. There is a lovely simplicity within the score that feels necessary to both the intimacy of the narrative and the size of the space. It is also delivered by a highly competent group of vocalists and musicians.

Moving us with ease between thriller, comedy and drama, this is a complex, well-crafted new musical, delivered by excellent performances, under the strong direction of Kate Golledge.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli



Union Theatre until 29th September



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