Last Sunday, I was so grateful we had afternoon plans to go see “Big, The Musical” at Adventure Theatre MTC in Glen Echo Park. It was so rainy and so cold – it was fortuitous that we made such great indoor plans before knowing how dreadful the weather would be.
I was also excited about embarking upon this Important Wired Momma Business Affair because I had a dear friend, Christiana, in town from Chicago and she is a true musical theater lover – so what a treat to take her to one of my fav children’s theaters of all time. Now full disclosure – heading into this production, I had some reservations about bringing my girls. They are now almost 7 and almost 4 and I worried the subject matter would be too mature for them but the show is recommended for kids ages 5 and older. I’ve been pushing it with the youngest Wired Momma’ette for a few years now, so what’s one more rainy day with a musical distraction, I reasoned?
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that sometimes, it’s best to trust one’s gut and the theatre’s age recommendations….but let’s be honest, my number was bound to be up on that lesson.
As it turns out, “Big, The Musical” is the first show at Adventure Theatre that I’ve seen starring actual children….real….live….children. This was a big change and one that I think, in particular, will appeal to the area tweens if they haven’t yet seen this production. My almost seven-year-old also delighted in seeing young tweens on stage and I think it further inspired her love of theatre and music. That said, I actually totally disagree with the Adventure Theatre on their age recommendations and honestly think this production is suited for those at least 9 years old and up.
First, as any child of the 80s knows, the subject matter of “Big” is just too complex for the younger kids in the audience. I admire Adventure Theatre
for such an ambitious program; to tackle a Hollywood movie hit, that was later adapted for Broadway in the late 90s, to then pair it down to a 80-minute production for young audiences is no small feat. The set was simple, the wardrobe well suited to the 80s movie we all recall and the famous Zoltar was outfitted in the most creative and colorful costume in the production. Adventure Theatre also incorporated multi-media in this production which I thought was an interesting and dynamic touch.
I hadn’t seen the movie probably since the late 80s and must admit, the idea that young 12 year-old Josh Baskin (played by Marley McKay) would essentially go missing and his mother (played by Kate Fisher) would be satisfied with one call from him noting that he needs some time and will be back in a few weeks, now seems absolutely ludicrous to adult, parent moi. I bought it as a tween back in Tom Hanks’ day, however. Neither of my kids noted this as unusual or problematic.
I eagerly awaited the iconic piano scene from FAO Schwarz and wondered how this production would recreate it – and they did a pretty good job. Adult Josh (played by Greg Maheu) exuberantly portrays a child-like adult who happily joins MacMillan Toys CEO (played by Lawrence Munsey) on the floor piano for a rendition of Chopsticks. Maheu has no small task in front of him, taking on a role that requires child like gestures and enthusiasm while functioning in the adult world. I thought he did it very well and portrayed a convincing and believable child-adult.
Here’s where I cut to the Wired Momma children, however, and note that all of this was racing over their heads, and it was only the mixing in of dynamic and well sung dancing scenes and colorful toys that they wanted to play with, that enabled me to keep them seated and somewhat engaged during the 80-minute production. Again, I take the blame for bringing my youngest but given the age of the child actors in this production and the content of the show, I really believe that unless you have a 4th grader on up, this is not the production for you. I almost found myself wondering if Adventure Theatre is remodeling its approach to children’s theater in this area but a quick look at their upcoming shows makes me think they are not. The flip side is that I think it’s really nice and refreshing to actually see children performing in a children’s theatre, and I think the kids themselves really like to see that on stage, so if I did have older kids – this would be a show I would absolutely take them too.
“Big, The Musical” is only running through October 28. Tickets are $19 each and can be purchased online. The Wired Momma kids are really looking forward to the next production, The Little House Christmas, because they are still talking about last year’s Christmas show.
Disclosure: Adventure Theatre MTC gifted the tickets to me. My opinions here are all my own.