Tag Archives: Ian William Galloway

Big the Musical

Big the Musical

★★½

Dominion Theatre

Big the Musical

Big the Musical

Dominion Theatre

Reviewed – 18th September 2019

★★½

 

“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

 

Noughts and Crosses
★★

Theatre Royal Brighton & UK Tour

Noughts and Crosses

Noughts and Crosses

Theatre Royal Brighton & UK Tour

Reviewed – 19th March 2019

★★

 

“misfires terribly, covering too many issues without any real cohesion and substance”

 

The idea of Noughts and Crosses appears a simple one. The tables have turned and the power in the world rests with the black population, not the white. We have the Crosses that epitomises power, wealth and political dominance and then the Noughts, second class citizens who are discriminated against because of their beliefs and are banned from interaction with the Crosses.

The story of Noughts and Crosses follows two teens from opposing sides of society, Sephy (Heather Agyepong), a Cross and Callum (Billy Harris), a Nought. We start by seeing their childhood innocence but that soon shifts onto much darker tones.

Throughout the piece we identify the rest of the cast (Doreene Blackstock, Jack Condon, Daniel Copeland, Lisa Howard, Chris Jack and Kimisha Lewis) jumping between characters. From parents of the two teens to members of rebellious militia groups amongst others. This could be a real strength of the piece but however falls flat with no real clear distinction vocally from the actors to differentiate between the roles which is ultimately confusing for the audience.

In the Noughts and Crosses novel series Malorie Blackman understands who we are as people better than most. The characters she’s created, in Sephy and Callum particularly, have depth but are poorly transitioned onto stage by adapter Sabrina Mahfouz. I do sympathise with Mahfouz however as it is an ambitious effort to translate all the themes from the first two novels, which Noughts and Crosses is based on, into just two hours. Above all I feel there is a clear generation gap in the writing, condescending in its approach to youth issues. The use of phrases such as ‘Flipping Sod’ makes us cringe rather than connect.

The saving grace in this production however comes from the design team, in that of Josh Drualas Pharo (Lighting) Arun Ghosh (Music), Xana (Sound), Adam McCready (Sound Engineer) Ian William Galloway (Video) and Simon Kerry (Design). The arrangement echoes The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time, a sparse stage with hidden compartments and doors. The attractive set helps the transitioning of scenes seem effortless.

Overall Noughts and Crosses misfires terribly, covering too many issues without any real cohesion and substance. Rape, physical abuse, teenage pregnancy and radicalisation are all pertinent issues however the end result is chaotic and clumsy; a condescending scattergun of the analysis of youth and love.

 

Reviewed by Nathan Collins

Photography by Robert Day

 


Noughts and Crosses

Theatre Royal Brighton until 23rd March

then UK Tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
This is Elvis | ★★★ | July 2018
Salad Days | ★★★ | September 2018
Rocky Horror Show | ★★★★ | December 2018
Benidorm Live! | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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