“Big” – Theater Works

This review aired on KBAQ September 9, 2013


Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

The musical “Big” is a problematic show.  It debuted on Broadway in 1996 based on the 1988 Tom Hanks comedy film.  The predictable story is clear from the opening so the show goes nowhere and the frail little story about 12-year-old Josh who wishes himself big and then doesn’t like being an adult is listlessly dull.  The David Shire/Richard Maltby songs are pleasant but you won’t remember any after the show.

So there’s not much musical theater razzle-dazzle in “Big” plus the inane story drags on far too long so the show clocks in at an agonizingly long three hours.  The Theater Works production isn’t bad but it never sparkles, something “Big” must do if it’s to captivate an audience.

Josh early on confronts a carnival arcade game where a mysterious figure grants him one wish.  Since Josh has the hots for a young girl who ignores him in favor of an older guy, Josh uses his wish to mature himself into his thirties.  It’s no surprise when Josh discovers that being an adult has more negatives than positives and, after endlessly draggy and boringly banal adventures, realizes that being a kid is better.  Lacing this listless tale with too many mediocre songs adds nothing but length to the show where Josh magically gets a job in a toy company.

The program proves a real challenge for theatergoers as there is neither a cast list nor a list of musical numbers, required elements of all musical theater programs.  The cast bios indicate each performer’s character so it’s a gigantic puzzle to figure out who is playing each role.

The men are the best from imported New York performer Dennis J. Clark who gives a bubbly read of the Adult Josh.  Aaron Zweiback presents an energetic Young Josh, and Alex Tuchi is appropriately snotty as his friend Billy.  Marissa Vatsky’s Susan has the hots for the older Josh but she’s just OK in the role.  Maria Amorocho is wasted in the poorly developed role of Josh’s mother, Mrs. Baskin.  Amorocho does stop the show with her moving solo “Stop Time.”

The sets and costumes aren’t impressive and Theater Works now has the orchestral score recorded.  What is a musical without a live pit band?

“Big” isn’t much of a show and the pedestrian Theater Works production never captivates.  It continues through September 29 at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.  For tickets, call the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts box office at 623-815-7930 or order tickets online at www.theaterworks.org.

Grade: D