The classic 1987 Tom Hanks motion picture, adapted from the insightful book by John Weidman, comes to the Community Players stage in a fantastic theatrical experience directed by Paul Nolette. Josh Baskin, a frustrated adolescent (is there any other kind?), who is often made to feel little, wishes to be big via the magic of a ZOLTAR carnival machine. Careful what you wish for – the next day he wakes amazed to find his wish granted. He is, well, big! Thrust from a simple childhood into the everyday grind of adulthood, he must find his way when faced with the challenges of career and romance. While it’s all fun and games at first, he soon finds out being big is not child’s play.
Enter Tyler Rebello as Josh. Rebello must be a big kid at heart, as he skillfully portrays this body swap to the point where you want to be onstage playing alongside him.Rebello has a sweet singing voice, and some fancy footwork to boot. He had the audience totally convinced this character is little Josh suddenly in his grown-up body.
“Getting to play a child in a man’s body has been challenging but hilarious,” says Rebello. “It’s been so much fun getting to be put in all these real-life adult situations and trying to react and navigate them like a 13-year-old boy would.” He is thankful to the production team and crew for making this show possible.
A surprising standout performance by Eve Marie Webster had the audience laughing uproariously. Webster’s sassy portrayal of the love-starved assistant, Miss Watson, left us wishing we’d seen more of her. “I was asked to step into the small role after, very sadly, the woman originally cast passed away,” says Webster. “This is truly one of the loveliest casts ever assembled. I’m happy to add what little I can to it.”
Terry Shea is a natural for the part of Zoltar, and he’s also fun as the boisterous MacMillan. Kudos for deftly switching gears from portraying a rigid, seemingly malevolent wizard, to a fun-loving, money-matters boss. His voice booms whether he’s speaking or singing. This being a musical, everyone in the cast sings this score by David Shire with musical direction by Brittany Dyer.
There is a large cast of children rounding out the performers, which you don’t often get to see. Hats off to Matthew McGuirl for his talented portrayal of young Josh. These talented kids add to the magical feel of childhood, as Josh becomes nostalgic, longing for his missed youth. They do a great job dancing and singing, with a few acrobatics as well. This entertaining choreography is thanks to lead producer Leslie Racine Vazquez.
“The musical explores themes of innocence, imagination, and the desire to always stay young at heart,” says Nolette. “This is a fun-filled musical for the whole family.” Nobody knows this better than Susan Lawrence, Josh’s love interest, portrayed by Melanie Gendreau. You truly feel the connection between them from their individual perspective. She has a hard time accepting Josh is actually a child who’d body morphed, until seeing the proof for herself. She bows out gracefully, though, sparing us any ick factor.
The Community Players present Big through November 19. For more info, visit thecommunityplayers.org.