Theatre Review: ‘Big, The Musical TYA’ at Adventure Theatre MTC

The Cast of ‘Big, The Musical TYA.’ Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Big, The Musical TYA, directed by Michael J. Bobitt, premiered at the Adventure Theatre MTC on September 21, 2012, and growing up in less than 30 seconds never felt so good. The 1987 hit movie is adapted for the stage in this bright, witty and tender musical.

Young Josh Baskin (Marley McKay) is tired of being treated like a little kid. Twelve is way too young to get the popular older girl at school, or even to stay out late at the traveling carnival. When he is told, right in front of his crush, that he is too short to ride the big rollercoaster, he is humiliated and willing to do anything to be big.

The cast of ‘Big, The Musical TYA.’ Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Josh runs away from his best friend, Billy (Brendan DeBonis), and bumps into a carnival game promising to make wishes come true. Josh wishes to be big, watches the game magically spring to life, and runs home to bed in fear.

The next morning Josh wakes up in the body of his adult self (now played by Gregory Maheu). He is taller. He bumps his head on things. His pajamas barely cover his knees, and his shirt exposes his midriff. He initially hides under a blanket from his mother (Kate Fisher), who interprets his lower voice as a sign of a cold. When he reveals his new self to her, she accuses him of abducting her little boy. Panicked, he runs away from home to find Billy and to figure out what to do.

Josh’s first challenge is convincing Billy of what has happened. DeBonis does a fantastic job with the transition from seeing a strange 30-year-old man, claiming to be his best friend Josh, to realizing, after an amazing array of handshake movements, that this man is his 12-year-old best friend.

It was really, really, really … awesome!

Maheu is very animated and convincing as a young boy trapped in a man’s body. He has fun with the role. His joy shines while playing with toys, pretending to be Billy’s dad, and then finding a grown-up job that lets him decide what toys get made for the up-coming holiday season. Soon, however, adult responsibilities begin creeping in on Josh’s fun, and his relationships become complicated as he experiences jealousy, competition, and adult love.

Janine Sunday is great as Susan, who finds she is falling in love with the unique Josh. She discovers that her life has become routine and boring, and she starts to adopt Josh’s young attitude toward life.

Another convert is Josh’s boss, Mr. MacMillan (Lawrence Munsey). He too decides to let more fun into his life, and Munsey is fun to watch as he sings and dances with his new attitude.

Greg Maheu as Josh and Brendan Debonis as Billy. Photo by Bruce Douglas.

As Josh begins to miss his mother and his days with few responsibilities, he realizes his life cannot be all fun and games and that he is not ready to be big. He is ready to go home. Kate Fisher’s voice is strong and melodic. She sings a wonderful song of sadness and helpless frustration as she hopes for Josh’s return and safety.

Josh realizes the importance of gaining the experience and emotional growth that comes with each passing year. He eventually returns to his life as a wise and grateful 12-year-old boy.

The set in this production is a star in its own right. The stage floor is painted with twisting piano keyboards like ribbons on the ground. The backdrop serves as Josh’s bedroom walls, a swanky New York City office, a colorful carnival, and even an elevator. All this was done with lighted panels that entirely change colors and well-placed doors and windows that appear, when needed, from the lighted walls.

When I told my 11-year-old son that I was writing a review for Big (he went with me as my date), I asked him how he would review it and that he needs to come up with about 500 words, he smiled and said, “It was really, really, really … (now add “really” a few hundred more times) … “awesome!”

Running Time: 70 minutes with no intermission.

Big, The Musical TYA runs through October 28, 2012 at Adventure Theatre MTC in Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD 20812. For more information and to buy tickets click here.