Tag Archives: Simon Higlett

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


A Song at Twilight

A Song at Twilight

Cambridge Arts Theatre & UK Tour

A Song at Twilight

A Song at Twilight

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 4th March 2019



“Callow’s performance is everything you’d expect”


A Song at Twilight is one of a trio of plays written by Noël Coward (collectively entitled Suite in Three Keys) all of which are set in the same suite in a luxury hotel in Switzerland. This enchanting play was first produced in 1966 and its revival is currently playing at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge as part of a UK Tour.

Upon entering the theatre the audience is greeted by a closed set. When the lights dimmed and the curtain rose we were impressed by Simon Higlett’s fabulous set that successfully recreates an elegant and opulent high windowed hotel suite overlooking a beautiful moonlit lake.

In the original production, set in the mid sixties, Coward himself played the central character of ageing author Sir Hugo Latymer. The part this time is taken by the quintessentially English thespian Simon Callow. Joining him is Jane Asher (Carlotta Grey), Jessica Turner (Lady Hilde Latymer) and Ash Rizi (Felix). 

Stephen Unwin’s direction is near perfect. The cast use the set well and the pace of exchanges in this witty and engaging play means that the attention of the audience is grabbed from the beginning and retained until the curtain call. The lighting (Ben Ormerod) whilst simple, subtly and effectively changes with the moods of the events that unfold.

Callow’s performance is everything you’d expect from an actor of his status and reputation, in fact the whole cast was outstanding throughout.  Jessica Turner spends a fair amount of time offstage but whilst onstage she expertly projects the various layers of Hilde’s personality. Jane Asher is perfectly cast and produces a stylish and elegant performance that shines throughout the evening. Whilst taking a smaller role Ash Rizi delivers an assured performance as the discreet waiter.

Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable evening in a welcoming Cambridge theatre, watching a multi layered piece of work with a tremendous cast. It is a highly recommended production.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Nobby Clark


A Song at Twilight

Cambridge Arts Theatre until 9th March then UK tour continues


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Cream Tea & Incest | ★★★★ | Hope Theatre | April 2018
Pressure | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | April 2018
Grotty | ★★★★ | The Bunker | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | Jermyn Street Theatre | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | June 2018
Oklahoma! | ★★★★ | The Gordon Craig Theatre | August 2018
Square Rounds | ★★★ | Finborough Theatre | September 2018
Sundowning | ★★★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | October 2018
Drowned or Saved? | ★★★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | Hope Theatre | November 2018


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