“When we must cross over
Who knows what we’ll find”
A 90s musical of an 80s film – nostalgia has a lot to answer for but it was to Maltby Jr and Shires’ 1996 adaptation of the Tom Hanks-starring film that producers turned for their big Christmas musical at Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin. Morgan Young’s production also had a short run at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and with the creation of this UK cast recording, you wonder whether further plans were in the pipeline for the show.
I’m not holding my breath though, as it doesn’t really sound like that much of a winner. Shire’s score is painfully dated, Maltby’s lyrics provide little spark and as a whole, Big the Musical just sounds a bit twee, a bit inconsequential. There’s little sense at all of the songs driving the narrative, they’re more an inoffensive, intermittent distraction, taking way too long to inch over to even just to ‘pleasant’ on the scale.
That said, once there, things do generally improve, mainly thanks to Diana Vickers’ sensitive performance as leading lady Susan. ‘Stars’ is the first time that the score really demands the attention, due to Vickers, and followed by her quirky ‘Little Susan Lawrence’, you’re left wishing that she was front and centre for the whole show. ‘Cross The Line’ completes a winning trio of tracks at the heart of this recording.
But Jay McGuiness is too inexperienced a performer to cope with the demands of his first leading stage role, his voice lacking the heft for a leading man or the colour for a charismatic character. What he has is enthusiasm, which comes across well (and maybe even more so in the flesh) but frankly, he’s not up to scratch. The experienced hands of Jessica Martin (as Mrs Baskin) and Gary Wilmot (as MacmIllan) are much more reliable but they’re not able to do much with material that too often feels leaden. On this evidence, Big the Musical won’t be a show I go rushing out to see.