Tag Archives: Jay McGuiness

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


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Rip it Up – The 60s

Garrick Theatre

Rip it Up

Rip it Up – The 60s

Garrick Theatre

Reviewed – 28th February 2019



“The energy and precision of the dancers shines throughout the show”


The ‘Rip It Up’ team comprises about fifteen incredibly talented dancers, singers and musicians who form the backbone of this 1960s ‘Nostalgia Fest’ currently running at the Garrick Theatre. They are the powerhouse that drive what is essentially a vehicle for four ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ celebrities. It is clear from the outset that the ensemble is far more watchable than the frontmen. What is also clear is the fact that you are not going to learn anything new whatsoever about the decade.

“If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there”. The four headliners – Harry Judd (from McFly), Jay McGuiness (from The Wanted), Aston Merrygold (from JLS) along with Olympic champion Louis Smith MBE – are all too young to have been there anyway; so there is no danger of any insightful anecdotes interfering with the banal banter eked out from them by MC Cavin Cornwall. Fortunately, we have a video back projection featuring veterans (mainly Lulu) to fill us in with some suitably superficial soundbites.

But let’s not miss the point. This is a dance extravaganza, not a history lesson. And while I admit to being a bit of a ‘stick-in-the-mud’, I did have a good wade and I can reveal that there are some real diamonds in there. Most notably a stunning routine that pays homage to Bob Fosse’s iconic ‘Frug’ (as featured in “Sweet Charity”). The energy and precision of the dancers shines throughout the show, bringing to the fore the varied inventiveness of Gareth Walker’s choreography. The fab four figureheads are given plenty of scope to show off, while generously acknowledging and complementing the unsung heroes that fuel the furnace. Dance Captain Scott Coldwell is a ball of burning energy that fires the cast into a machine precisioned chorus.

A solid four-piece band, headed by lead singer Jill Marie Cooper, provides the sonic backdrop: a faithful reproduction of the sounds of the sixties, with some musical surprises courtesy of Barnaby Dickinson’s imaginative rearrangements of the Beatles’ hits from the later years.

But for all the high energy, it is altogether a bit of a stew as we plough through a predictable line up of watersheds including the British Invasion, the West Coast music explosion, Woodstock, the Mods, Psychedelia, Motown, Bacharach, the Beatles and the Stones; bogged down along the way by Cornwall’s tiresome commentary. Like those late night, backwater ‘Best of…’ TV shows, whose style this is emulating, there is an inevitable tendency towards repetition, borne from a need to fill the time slot allotted.

If it lacks the X factor, there is no denying that there is an abundance of the fun factor. While aimed predominantly at the Strictly fans there is enough in the pot for everyone. Like the decade it represents, you just have to let your hair down and enjoy it for what it is. “Rip it Up – the fifties” preceded this, and I now find myself looking forward to them shedding the cheesecloth and donning the glam and glitter for “Rip it Up – the Seventies”.

Keep on Rollin’…


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography courtesy Rip it Up


Rip It Up - The 60s

Rip it Up – The 60s

Garrick Theatre until 2nd June


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Dear Elizabeth | ★★ | Gate Theatre | January 2019
Director’s Cut | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Out of Step | ★★ | Drayton Arms | January 2019
Police Cops | ★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Queens of Sheba | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) | ★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
A Beautiful Noise | ★★★★★ | Lyric Theatre | February 2019
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | Union Theatre | February 2019
Not Quite | ★★★ | Hen & Chickens Theatre | February 2019
The Grand Expedition | ★★★★★ | Secret Location | February 2019


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