Music by David Shire, Lyrics by Richard Maltby, Book by John Weidman
Theatre Under the Stars
Stanley Park
July 14-August 20
604-257-0366 or online

Big: The Musical at Theatre Under the Stars has almost all the ingredients for a great musical. The one it lacks is great music.

Adapted from the movie that made Tom Hanks famous, the show has a delicious premise. Thirteen-year-old Josh Baskin wants desperately to be “big” so his parents will no longer bug him and he can pursue girls with breasts. He magically gets his wish but awkwardly remains a kid inside his man’s body. Subsequently, he shows some adults the importance of embracing their inner kid. He also learns that growing up so fast may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

The gawky, spinny kid inside the man provides delightful opportunities for comic acting and dancing. Peter Jorgensen, starring as big Josh, has the charm and comic chops, a relaxed elasticity and all the moves. He’s a pleasure to watch. The dance Josh does on a large keyboard with his boss, Mr. Macmillan (Gordon Doerkson in a wonderful performance), is a highlight of the show.

When he demonstrates to the uptight suits at the Macmillan Toy Company (“Don’t play with that—it’s a toy!”) the liberating joys of a youthful, naïve embrace of life, Josh provides opportunity for a couple of spectacular production numbers. These are typically a strength of TUTS shows and here director Shel Piercy and choreographer Viktoria Langton harness the energy and enthusiasm of the large, young cast to fine effect.

As the love interest, Susan, the sophisticated uptown toy company exec whose heart is melted by Josh’s sweet goofiness, Lalainia Lindbjerg is simply sensational. She has genuine Broadway musical star quality: a beautiful, effortless voice and presence to burn. And she’s gorgeous.

There’s real chemistry in her scenes with Jorgensen. Their funny first date ends at Josh’s apartment, a giant kid’s room, in a series of lovely comic misunderstandings. When he asks if she wants to play games, Susan thinks he means sex. When she says she planned to spend the night with him, he thinks she means a sleepover. When he says, “I gotta be on top,” he means the upper bunk bed. She also has by far the best and funniest song in the show, “My Secretary’s in Love.”

But really good songs are sorely lacking in Big. Kimberly Page does a nice job as Josh’s mother, singing about the poignancy of watching one’s child grow up. Sweet-voiced Lucas Testini as little Josh has a decent number about wanting to know. Josh’s precocious friend Billy (Doran Satanove) leads the neighborhood kids in a lively rap.

Musical director Wendy Bross Stuart and her 18-piece orchestra do what they can with David Shire’s mostly clunky score. But the music in Big: The Musical just doesn’t come up big.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Monday, July 18, 2005 9:09 PM
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