Tag Archives: Wendi Peters

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

 

Call Me Vicky

Call Me Vicky
★★★

Pleasance Theatre

Call Me Vicky

Call Me Vicky

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 21st February 2019

★★★

 

“this is a piece that deals with themes that have enduring relevance”

 

Call Me Vicky is sister duo Nicola and Stacey Bland’s debut play, set in the 1980s and following Vicky as she transitions from male to female. As well as being the brains behind the script, based entirely on a true story, the sisters perform in the show. We may now live in an arguably more understanding society compared to the 1980s, but this is a piece that deals with themes that have enduring relevance.

Much of the play is set in The Golden Girl drag club and as the audience enters the performance space, they are stamped to replicate entering a real club. The set (designed by Martha Hegarty) conforms to this well, with some audience members able to sit at tables on the edge of the stage, which are scattered with drinks glasses and leaflets. The intimate size of the performance space, as well as neon signs, adds to the club-like feel.

Family and friendship is at the heart of the play. Vicky (Matt Greenwood) and Mum, Sylvie (Wendi Peters), clearly share a close bond, with Sylvie’s concern for Vicky as she goes off out to the club with best friend Debbie (Nicola Bland) clearly displayed. The relationship between Vicky and Debbie is lovely to watch. They share banter, but also great care for one another, which is demonstrated particularly well during the play’s final scene.

Other characters include club waitress Gabby (Stacey Bland), club host Fat Pearl (Ben Welch) and Vicky’s love interest Sid (Adam Young). Stacey Bland’s Gabby is a likeable character and is easy to sympathise with in her struggles with drug addiction and motherhood. Ben Welch is entertaining as Fat Pearl, providing much of the play’s comedy. He has another minor role as an undercover policeman towards the end of the play, where he is really able to show his versatility in a hard-hitting scene with Matt Greenwood’s Vicky. Adam Young surprises as Sid. His punk-style costume suggests something quite different from the sympathetic, gentle character he goes on the play.

From an audience perspective, the play is best viewed facing straight on, with those of us sitting at the sides sometimes missing actors’ facial expressions and parts of their lines, due to them being blocked by their fellow actors. This was a minor annoyance and something to be considered, most notably in the more moving scenes of the play.

Directed by Victoria Gimby, Call Me Vicky is indeed a frank and revealing play. We gain a deeply personal insight into the life of somebody who wants to become the person they know themselves to truly be. This is made even more poignant through the knowledge the play is based on a true story. Although there are a few issues in terms of the set-up of the audience, this is an important piece of theatre, celebrating diversity and highlighting what it can take to stay true to ourselves.

 

Reviewed by Emily K Neal

Photography by Fabio Santos

 


Call Me Vicky

Pleasance Theatre until 9th March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Assassins | ★★★★ | March 2018
Moonfleece | ★★★ | March 2018
Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy | ★★★★ | April 2018
Dames | ★★★½ | April 2018
Spiked | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Gym Thing | ★★★★ | May 2018
Bingo | ★★★ | June 2018
Aid Memoir | ★★★ | October 2018
One Duck Down | ★★★★★ | October 2018
The Archive of Educated Hearts | ★★★★ | October 2018

 

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