Alhambra’s “Big” an entertaining wish come true for audiences

By Martie Thompson
editor@floridanewsline.com

Alhambra Theatre and Dining’s production of “Big” explores the truism that all little kids want to be big. But what happens if a young boy’s wish comes true? The stage production, with book by John Weidman, music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., is based on the motion picture of the same name starring Tom Hanks that was released in 1988. Fans of the film will undoubtedly be entertained by “Big, the Musical.”

The show, which centers around an adolescent boy (Josh) wishing he was big and then actually becoming so, will be delightfully familiar to audiences — and the addition of musical numbers freshens up the production and allows for some interesting nuances. Particularly well cast are the leads, Rodney Holmes as Josh and Heather Kopp as Susan. Holmes perfectly portrays being a little boy in a man’s body, with predictably immature and often awkward reactions to various adult situations he finds himself in. Kopp as Susan, Josh’s love interest, depicts a woman who might be growing cynical to adulthood and therefore drawn to the innocence of boy/man Josh.

Yes, the show contains the iconic large piano on which Josh dances and plays music. Fancy footwork and keys that light up are mesmerizing. Fortune telling machine Zoltar also takes its place as a key prop in the story.

Notable scenes include the adults at the MacMillan Toy Company who are so used to being “yes people” to big boss MacMillan (astutely portrayed by Steven Flaa) that they appear to be automatons in early dance scenes. The unadulterated childhood joy that Josh brings to the toy company as its newest employee is infectious, and by the end of the show, the toy company employees’ dancing is more energetic and spirited.

Songs like “My Secretary is in Love,” sung in a witty repartee style by vocal powerhouse Kopp as Susan as well as “Coffee, Black” by Holmes as Josh add comic relief. Another amusing aside is the scene with Susan’s best friends as they check out her new beau, Josh, and perform “The Real Thing.”

Meanwhile, back in Josh’s old life, his mother (Mrs. Baskin, portrayed by Katie Nettle) poignantly sings a song all parents can relate to about how quickly their children grow: “Stop Time.”

“Big” includes a number of children in the cast and all are very talented. Of note, Ari Walz as Young Josh and JonAshton Reid as his best friend Billy, make the most of their time in the spotlight.

Chef DeJuan Roy has created a delicious menu for this production, including a starter of either potato and bacon chowder or spring mix salad and then entree choice of brown sugar crusted corned beef, oven seared red fish, quinoa bowl or his Aunt Mae’s fried chicken recipe that was especially moist and flavorful. Save room for either caramel apple strudel or banana cream pie; both are worth the calories.

“Big” will appear at Alhambra Theatre and Dining until May 5. Visit www.alhambrajax.com for tickets and more information.

Photo courtesy Alhambra Theatre and Dining