Previewed 6 September 2019, Opened 17 September 2019, Closed 2 November 2019 at the Dominion Theatre
The West End Premiere of the stage musical Big in London starring Jay McGuiness for a strictly limited eight week season
Josh Baskin is twelve and life sucks, until one night at a carnival his wish to be big is granted. Now, trapped in an adult body in a grown-up world, he's asking: is being big all it's cracked up to be?
The cast features Jay McGuiness as 'Josh Baskin' and Kimberley Walsh as 'Susan Lawrence', with Matthew Kelly as 'George MacMillan', Wendi Peters as 'Mrs Baskin', Lori Haley Fox as 'Mrs Kopecki' / 'Miss Watson', and Edward Handoll as 'Paul Seymour'. The role of 'Young Josh' is shared between Harrison Dadswell, Jamie O’Connor and Jake Simon. The role of 'Billy' is shared between Jobe Hart, Austen Phelan and Theo Wilkinson. With Charlie Bull, Colin Burnicle, Christie-Lee Crosson, Vicki Davids, Alex Fobbester, Anton Fosh, Gemma Fuller, Leanne Garretty, Stuart Hickey, Matt Holland, Tash Holway, Ross McLaren, Gary Murphy, Richard Murphy, Eddie Myles, Katy Osborne, Katharine Pearson. Directed and choreographed by Morgan Young with designs by Simon Higlett, lightingby Tim Lutkin, video by Ian Galloway, and sound by Terry Jardine and Avgoustos Psillas. This production was originally seen on tour in the UK during 2016. Musical with music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby, and book by John Weidman, based on the 1988 motion picture written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg.
Jay McGuiness is a member of the pop group The Wanted and, with professional dance partner Aliona Vilani, he won the 2015 BBC TV Strictly Come Dancing series. He starred, alongside Harry Judd, Aston Merrygold and Louis Smith, in the 1960s musical Rip It Up at the West End's Garrick Theatre in 2019.
Kimberley Walsh is a member of the pop group Girls Aloud. Her West End credits include playing the role of 'Jovie' in Morgan Young's production of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin's Elf the Musical at the Dominion Theatre in 2015.
Based on the 1988 movie starring Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins, this musical version played a six month season in New York's Broadway in 1996 when it was nominated for five Tony Awards including for 'Best Original Score' and 'Best Book of a Musical'.
When this production opened here at the Dominion Theatre in September 2019, Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail thought that "in all honesty, though, his performance could be bigger... Jay McGuiness is thoroughly congenial and pulls off the trickiest set piece with aplomb when he dances on the giant piano keyboard at the Fifth Avenue toy store... My main quibble is with David Shire's music. There are moments of Eighties pastiche... otherwise there are no stand-alone show stoppers." Clive Davis in the Times described how "Morgan Young's energetic production... lacks genuine stardust, but it ticks enough boxes... Jay McGuiness has lots of charm, and he handles the vocals comfortably enough, but he's too bland to make you want to suspend belief." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that Jay McGuiness and Kimberley Walsh: "are the ginormous, strong-voiced, lithe-limbed saving grace of an evening that too often looks like a pint-sized version of the film walking on the stilts of bolted-together numbers." Matt Wolf in the i newspaper said that "the show remains awkwardly positioned between the satiric and the sentimental... a ruthless pruning wouldn’t go amiss... there’s a lot of score to Big, whose programme points to nearly 30 songs. Too many of them, alas, merely mark time or exist to give the kids in the ensemble an athletic workout in director Morgan Young’s frenetic choreography." Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard complained that "Big The Musical is a big disappointment. It's a mechanically slick, soulless, tone-deaf take on the 1988 New York movie... The stage version crowbars humdrum songs into this story of innocence lost and regained, often without reason and with some pretty dodgy rhymes... Jay McGuiness has a certain bashful vigour but he's no match for the radiant charm of Tom Hanks, who was the movie's saving grace." Kate Wyver in the Guardian explained that, "for a show about fun, Big provides disappointingly little of it... And while this romcom attempts to wash over the murky sexual politics with a jokey aside, it feels naive not to grapple with the fact that it is the story of a 13-year-old boy in a sexual relationship with a thirtysomething woman; the adult body does not cancel out the child’s mind."
Matthew Kelly's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Henry Saunders' in Ian Talbot's production of Peter Sham and Brad Carroll's musical version of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me A Tenor at the Gielgud Theatre in 2011; 'Frank Tollit' in Peter Wilson's production of Tim Firth Sign of the Times at the Duchess Theatre in 2011; 'Pozzo' in Sean Mathias' revival of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot at the Haymarket Theate in 2010; 'George' in Andrew Hall's revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Trafalgar Studios 2 in 2009; and 'Lennie' in Jonathan Church's revival of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at the Savoy Theatre in 2003.
Wendi Peters' West End theatre credits include playing the role of 'Martha' in Morgan Young's production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas the Musical at the Dominion Theatre in 2014; and co-starring in Grumpy Old Women at the Novello Theatre in 2010.
"There's a lot to enjoy in this zingy adaptation, which premiered on Broadway in the 1990s. The big-budget sets are great and some of the musical numbers pop. If Jay McGuiness can't match Tom Hanks for childness, he's surely a better dancer. Kimberley Walsh sings beautifully as his confused love interest and Matthew Kelly is good fun as the grouchy CEO. Overall, this jolly musical transforms adults in the audience into children, while the children get a glimpse of adult life." The Sunday Times
"The Wanted's Jay McGuiness does a good job of capturing Josh's innocence, while showcasing the slick dance moves that wowed Strictly. And Girls Aloud's Kimberley Walsh puts in a nice turn as workaholic Susan. But while their relationship never really takes flight, their comic moments need more time to land. And for all its sentiment, the plot alone can't carry the weight of mediocre songs. The big-budget set grabs the attention, framing the beautifully performed high-energy dance routines. But this fun evening falls short of big expectations." The Sunday Mirror
"The score is vibrant rather than memorable... Morgan Young's production is colourful, slick and highly enjoyable. Much of the credit belongs to the technical wizardry of Simon Higlett's sets, with their ever-changing motion and computer graphics... Jay McGuiness plays the older Josh with the perfect blend of comic confusion and little-boy-lost charm. He has the ideal foil in Kimberley Walsh's elegant, sweet-voiced Susan. Big deserves a success the size of its name. The only mystery is that it has a mere seven-week run." The Sunday Express
The musical Big in London at the Dominion Theatre previewed from 6 September 2019, opened on 17 September 2019, and closed on 2 November 2019.