It’s not easy to walk a mile in actor Tom Hanks’ shoes–especially when you’re appearing in Big the Musical, based on the hit 1988 movie in which Hanks so memorably played Josh Baskin, a boy trapped inside a man’s body after making a wish at a carnival. But in the Players’ current production of Big the Musical, based on that film, Chip Fisher does an engaging job of portraying that just-on-the-verge-of- adolescence childlike innocence mixed with a longing to be grown up.
Fisher’s the star of this production, and whenever he and Eve Cabellero, as a businesswoman with a bad track record in the love department, are on stage, together or separately, Big is delightful to watch. Not everything works as well as they do in the show, which features a sizeable cast of both young people and adults, but overall it’s entertaining and occasionally touching.
We first meet the younger Josh (Brandon Reid), an ordinary 12-year-old New Jersey boy whose mother (Kathleen Abney) is reluctant to let him grow up, holding on to memories of her baby. When Josh and his best friend, Billy (Zach Herman), go to that carnival and Josh is turned away from a ride because he’s too small, it’s only natural that his wish to the mysterious Zoltar machine figure is to be big.
But big has its own problems, as the Josh inside Fisher’s body quickly learns. He’s lucky enough to find a job almost right away, after meeting the owner of a toy company (Bob Fahey) in that famous scene at a toy store involving a big keyboard played by dancing feet. But he’s confused by his feelings for Susan (Caballero), and there’s a lot of charm in the scene where she first visits his apartment, expecting her usual sort of date night, only to find games and a sleepover more his speed than sex.
Some of the David Shire-Richard Maltby Jr. songs in the show are just OK, but a few, like Little Susan Lawrence, Stop Time and especially the ensemble numbers Cross the Line and Coffee Black, are good enough to hold up even outside the context of the show itself. Music director Deidre Reigel doubled as choreographer on the production, and while the ensemble numbers can be ragged, both vocally and physically, they’re filled with lively energy.
Big the Musical may not replace your memories of Hanks and the film, but thanks to Fisher and Caballero, it may leave you with a few new ones. The show runs through Jan. 30; call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.