Sunday, May 10, 2009

review - BIG The Musical

Big The Musical
book by John Weidman
music by David Shire; lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.
West Coast Ensemble
@ El Centro Theatre, Hollywood
directed by Richard Israel
through June 28
1988's film Big was a real charmer with miles of heart. The 1996 Broadway musical Big based on the movie has some great tunes but did not really work on a big stage, so was understandably less successful. Now in a more intimate space, at the El Centro to be precise, presented by West Coast Ensemble, Big The Musical has found its niche. It's a real winner.
Skillfully guided by director Richard Israel with snappy choreography from Christine Lakin, Big has a magnetic cast. The kids in particular are immensely talented and work so very well together. LJ Benet as Young Josh Baskin is a real find, a natural. Sterling Beaumon makes Billy Kopecki a sincere pal. Will Collyer as Older Josh has boyish goodlooks and is especially effective in his moments of awkwardness with Susan Lawrence, played divinely by Darrin Revitz. This lady is a wonderfully intelligent and expressive actress. Also terrific are Larry Lederman as 'go with the flow' boss MacMillan, Lisa Picotte as Josh's loving mother and the entire ensemble with extra special standouts, Johanna Kent and John Wesley Stewart.
Flaws in the show? They have little to do with WCE's production values. They're gaps in the book that occur mainly from the initial transitioning of the show from screen to stage. For example, Josh is given little opportunity to express anxiety over adjusting to New York. And the ending of the story is too calculated and abrupt. No mother, no emotional goodbyes to Susan...well a small one, but not as heartwrenching as in the movie. A lot of the film's heart is missing, but then again, certain musical numbers created for the show are unforgettably original, such as the first act dance finale "Crossing the Line", Josh's first experience with sensual love as Young Josh watches/sings from the sidelines "I Want to Know" - precious and charming - and "The Real Thing", a highly stylized 'meet Susan's friends' scenario that is devilishly funny, one of the show's best. Another equally touching scene is the 'bedroom' sleepover with "Stars", a truly engaging and intimate song. So, it's easy to downplay the flaws when the goods presented bring enjoyment.
And this production, unlike many, is entertaining for the entire family. Israel and Lakin are admirable, especially in getting the kids to blend so well, and in making the small space totally believable in its multitude of indoor and outdoor scenarios - big and small.
Big The Musical is one BIG treat!
5 out of 5 stars


Blogger Ellen said...

I went to see this with no expectations - actually a little unsure, knowing the movie well and knowing it was basically a Broadway flop. I was absolutely delighted by this production and would recommend it to anyone for a truly entertaining evening.

May 11, 2009 2:02 PM  

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