Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Flint Community Players opened their final show of this season Thursday with big, the musical. Some may remember the eighties film starring Tom Hanks about the boy who wanted to be grown and will recognize this story now set to music.
As the story goes, thirteen-year-old Josh Baskin (Preston James) feels left out when his height keeps him off a carnival ride. He makes a wish on a Zoltar machine asking to become “big” and gets more than he bargained for. He wakes up the next morning in the body of a grown man! Big Josh (Justin Tomlin) will not only be forced to do “adult” things like get a job and a girlfriend, but will also discover that being an adult involves a lot more than he could have imagined.
Clearly this was not an easy show to produce. Music is not live, but the recorded accompaniment sounds good. However, working with recorded music adds another layer of rehearsal timing that wasn’t well locked in Thursday. We wonder how much of an effect it may have had on vocals as too many off-key renditions were heard.
There are 14 scene changes, not many of which are small. This takes up a lot of time in this three-hour performance. Not to labor a point, (well, maybe) but there was at least one time when, with the scene change complete and actors in place, we all waited an uncomfortable bit for the musical interlude to conclude before taking up the action.
Director Stevie Visser has gathered a large ensemble to augment this cast. A chorus of sixteen adults and children, all of whom brought spark and vitality each time they crowded onto the stage, joined the ten speaking roles.
Tomlin anchored the show with his brash enthusiasm, boyish expressions, and strong singing voice. “Coffee Black” was a highlight for him. Joining Josh was Aubrey Forsythe as Susan, the girl who falls in love with him. The ballad “Stars” was sweet and nicely done, as was her reminiscence “Dancing All the Time”.
As Josh’s mother, Rebecca Pauli did a fine job of tugging at heartstrings with “Stop, Time” even though there was static on her microphone. It’s a lovely song.
As for chorus numbers, the close of the first act was fun with “Cross the Line”. It was a nicely cohesive song and dance that was cute and well done. The four youngsters (Bethann Alexander, Alyssa Carr, Erynn A. Ford, Meredith Knight) handled themselves really well here and throughout.
Others worthy of mention include Josiah Jackson as Josh’s best friend Billy who nearly stole the show at the opening of the second act with his hip kid “rap” about “It’s Time”. Also, as the disgruntled executive jealous of Josh, Gil Hall brought swagger and dash, and Vic Galea was both fun-loving and frustrated as Mr. MacMillan, the owner of the toy company.
Overall, this group has some work to do. Music played over action and dialogue almost constantly in this production, and may have been the reason that diction in both lyrics and lines was a problem Thursday. Sound and scene shifting needs tightening to avoid hampering performers with oddly placed pauses. They can do it. There is still time.
big, the musical continues at Flint Community Players, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy., Flint, MI, May 13, 14, 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm and May 15 & 22 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at http://www.flintcommunityplayers.com