When thinking of a musical named “Big,” audiences wouldn’t immediately think of a bare-bones production in a very intimate theater. However, the York Theatre Company’s production of Big (which is part of their Fall 2014 Mufti Series) definitely delivers a performance that is anything but small.
Every kid dreams of the life they’ll have when they’re grown up, and Big, the musical adaptation of the 1988 classic comedy film, sets out to show that growing up isn’t always as great as it seems. Big tells the magical story of Josh (Hayden Wall), a twelve-year-old boy who makes a wish on a carnival machine to be grown up. When his wish comes true, he finds a job with a toy company owned by George MacMillan (Richard Maltby, Jr.) and meets the jaded Susan (Kerri Butler), a woman whose poor luck in love has gotten the better of her. Of course, the now “big” Josh (John Tartaglia) soon learns that the perks of being grown up don’t come without some downsides.
Though the cast took the show from script to stage in less than two days, every individual gave a bright and energetic performance, and they all clearly had a great time. Tartaglia brings humor and refreshing sincerity to Josh, a child suddenly in a grown man’s body. Butler shines from the moment she enters as Susan, and shows great depth as she takes the character from a cold executive to a jaded woman who had forgotten how wonderful life could be. Of course, Janet Metz gives an endearing and emotional portrayal of Josh’s mother, a woman who suddenly found herself dealing with the disappearance of her child. Jeremy Shinder gives a solid comedic performance as Josh’s pre-teen friend Billy. Finally, it is worth noting that Maltby, known for being a director and lyricist, gave a commendable performance as MacMillan, the kind-hearted owner of a huge toy corporation. Maltby was added to the cast following a last-minute cancellation, and was a welcome addition.
The rest of the cast (James Ludwig, Rhyn Saver, Tom Lucca, Elainey Bass, Liam Forde, Trista Dollison, and Whitney Brandt) each play multiple characters, and give fun and enjoyable performances in each unique role they take on.Overall, the cast of this stripped-down production of Big, under the direction of Michael Unger and the musical direction of Eric Svejcar, gives audiences an unexpectedly satisfying treat that certainly lives up to its name.
Review By: Jacob R. Hines