Big | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


Big, Drury Lane Oakbrook. The 1988 age-morphing film--Kafka tamed by Hollywood--imagined a 13-year-old boy named Josh who wakes up one day as a 30-year-old man. His brain is suddenly too small for his body, and though his inner child helps him become the golden boy at a toy-making corporation, falling in love is not on his agenda. Colleague Susan finds Josh honest and spontaneous, but he can't meet her grown-up needs. She ends up settling for corrupt maturity, and Josh learns to hide his feelings. Though director Penny Marshall made the film a comedy, the story might easily have gone the other way.

Like the film, the 1996 Broadway musicalization (by the reliable John Weidman, David Shire, and Richard Maltby Jr.) treats this as an adult fantasy about being a kid again rather than a parable of the Peter Pan syndrome. A serviceable but unmemorable score gooses the key moments, especially an exuberant dance on a giant illuminated keyboard, impeccably performed by Roger Mueller as a toy mogul and Rod Thomas as grown-up Josh. James Zager's hiply choreographed dance bits are rich fun--especially "Cross the Line," in which teenagers and adults dance together.

Director Gary Griffin's effects may be minimal compared to the overproduced Broadway original, but his cast is charming, especially Paula Scrofano as Josh's abandoned mother, Max Quinlan as the young dreamer, and the show's ten other talented teens.

--Lawrence Bommer

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