Big the Musical

Date 7th April 2022
Society Dunmow Players
Venue Foakes Hall, Dunmow
Type of Production Musical
Director Peter Dedman
Musical Director Karen Chinery
Choreographer Mollie Blake

Report

Author: Amanda Green

The film of Big, which up till now had become a distant memory, was brought back to life by the cast and crew of the musical, who succeeded in re-creating its original magic and surprise, drawing the audience into its world of the many different emotions experienced by both the little and big Josh. The authentic costumes helped to transport the audience straight back to the ‘80s, and the excellent musicians, under the musical direction of Karen Chinery, provided both funny and poignant numbers throughout the show. It was a joy to watch the re-creation of the iconic piano-playing dance executed so well.

Tait Newman not only gave a promising performance as Little Josh, but was a great asset to the chorus numbers, which he performed with delightful energy. He, along with Niki Scripps as Mrs Baskin, should be commended for their unflinching execution of the opening songs, not letting the tech problems with the microphone sound levels impede their performances.

Joe Baker certainly enjoyed his role as Big Josh, convincing the audience that there really was a child in the body of a man, skilfully using appropriate physicality and facial expressions to enhance his portrayal of the boy who was simultaneously troubled and delighted by what he was discovering. Susan was skilfully played by Emily Robshaw, who was able to successfully portray her as simultaneously out for what or who she could get to further her own career and as a caring, genuine woman who was out of her depth.

Cian Harriss and Daniel Abbot both gave solid performances in their supporting roles, and Heather Bennett provided some wonderful light relief in her delightful playing of Miss Watson.

Peter Dedman’s direction brought life into the chorus scenes, from the cleverly staged numbers featuring the deadpan, downbeat employees of MacMillan toys, to the contrasting energy of the childrens' songs.

Perhaps the scene that deserves to get a special mention is the opening of the second half, where the children, magnificently led by Theo Smith as Billy, performed an excellently choreographed number with their drinks. Every step and shoulder movement was in sync, and indeed, all the children kept in good time and performed with great energy throughout the show. It is hard to believe that it was Mollie Blake’s first time choreographing a musical, as it was done with such expertise. Likewise, it is extraordinary to think that this was Theo Smith’s first principle role, as his command of the stage was beyond excellent, and certainly belied his young age.

The simplicity of the set, enhanced by the projections which provided the detail of each setting, should have provided an easy transition between the many scene changes. However, there were multiple false movements of the sliding archways, and confused shifting of the blocks backwards and forwards. Initially these were moved during blackouts, but as the show progressed, stage crew were seen moving furniture and scenery during the action of a scene, which was extremely distracting. It is never easy to work out whether to have blackouts, which can lower the energy of a performance, but unfortunately this was not the solution. However, the actors did not let this interfere with their individual performances, and they never broke character.

All in all, the company really put life into their roles, and enjoyed what they were doing. It was wonderful to see the result of such hard work and celebrate the coming to fruition of a show hit by the pandemic just before it was due to open 2 years before it finally could.

Well done to everyone involved, and thank you for inviting me.