Boise Little Theater gets its spring season under way with the charming fantasy Big transformed into a clunky, plodding musical.
Director Rick Hoover has assembled some of the valley's most talented adults and children in his cast of more than 40, and they dance and sing their way into your heart, in spite of an uninspired musical score and rather pedestrian lyrics.
The story--in case you and I are the only ones in the free world who didn't see the movie Big starring Tom Hanks--is about a 12-year-old boy, Josh, who puts a quarter in a broken down arcade machine (that isn't even plugged in ) and makes a wish to be grown up. Thanks to the magic of theater and the strange machine, Josh wakes up as an adult, too big for his britches, his bed, or his mom's imagination.
Big Josh is played with gradually increasing gusto by Gregg Irwin from Nampa. Little Josh is portrayed by Harrison Lamon as a shy, small boy with a serious and quiet manner. Even his solo, which he sings firmly, has a soft quality, which is endearing, but not showy.
And herein lies the problem. Irwin, as Big Josh, starts off hilariously with the shock of his situation, with no clothes, no home, no money. He is wonderful at creating the illusion of a scared young kid in an adult body. But to carry off the many songs, scenes and lavish dance routines, Irwin gradually slips into his dazzling musical comedy persona. This is good, because it gives the play its sparkle and lively fun. A musical with a shyly quiet hero would lack oomph. But then when Irwin tries to remind us he is really 12 years old, he seems to be more of a caricature of a kid, rather than being inside his skin.
Big Josh meets a toy company owner, boisterously played by Doug Brinkman, and gets a job as toy tester. What better spot for a kid? Brinkman and Irwin are great in their dance on the giant piano keys, and the singing and dancing toy company staff are all terrific, especially Jo McCosh, the choreographer for the show, who dances her way from a prim and proper secretary into a sexy, abandoned woman.
And then there's the romance. Talk about doomed lovers! Angela Simitzes is sensational as the aggressive female executive, who dumps her current beau, Paul, to go after the new company star, Big Josh. Paul is given a nasty, self-protecting personality by Frederic Webb, who can play a hero or a villain with ease. Simitzes, with her dynamite singing voice, does an outstanding job of transforming from a hard-driving business shark into a sweet and affectionate woman, intrigued and altered by the boy-man she loves.
But in spite of all the superb performances and the adorable kids, the show seems to drag, and the constant scene changes, even though they are quiet and efficient, slow down the pace and interrupt the story. However, the many families in attendance seemed to love the show, so if you have a kid in the play, you'll have a blast. Otherwise, the almost three-hour running time may seem too much for such a fluffy story line.
Big, the Musical, book by John Weidman; lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.; music by David Shire. Directed by Rick Hoover at the Boise Little Theater, 100 E. Fort St. 8 p.m. Thur.-Sat., April 27-29. Tickets $10; $9 groups of 6 or more; $8 seniors and students on Thurs. For reservations, call 342-5104 or visit www.boiselittletheater.org.