BIG, the 1996 musical based on the 1988 Tom Hanks movie, may not have been a hit on Broadway, but it’s a smart fit for small stages like Wilmington Drama League. Ambitious but not overly-complicated, the show allows the theater to showcase ensembles on three levels (adult, teen, and child). The cast is huge, with a story that comes together through the show’s four leads: Daniel Urdaneto as big Josh, Kansas Lynn Battern as his mother, Will Rotsch as his best friend Billy, and Sharon Ruegsegger as his grown-up love interest Susan.
When 12 year-old Josh (Connor Carp) is granted a wish by a creepy carnival arcade machine (featuring an elaborately crafted puppet), he wishes to be big. His mother, meanwhile, is struggling with his impending transition from child to teenager. When he wakes up in a grown up body, he’s desperate to undo the wish, but must wait 3-4 weeks for a list of carnival companies to arrive in the mail (the show tries to make it current with a Kardashian joke, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s set before the modern internet — not that there’s anything wrong with that). In the meantime, he lands a dream job as a toy consultant and somewhat inadvertently starts dating the company’s head of marketing.
Urdaneto nails the youthful demeanor of Josh, who is a naive fish-out-of-water in the adult world, even as he takes it by storm. As Billy, Salesianum sophomore Rotsch proves himself to be one of the biggest youth talents in Wilmington — his vocals are clear, his comic timing is on point, and his acting convinces you that he’s a precocious 12.
Ruegsegger was last seen playing a gender-bent Simon in WDL’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR earlier this season. Although that was a great role, it didn’t allow her talent to shine as much as her role as Susan does here.
A newcomer to WDL, Battern is a wonderfully talented addition to the Wilmington stage, bringing tremendous heart to the role of Josh’s heartsick mother. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.
One of the best decisions WDL made with this production was to go without microphones, after SUPERSTAR had some unnecessary sound issues. Mics aren’t needed — it’s a small stage, and you can hear the actors perfectly without them. And it just sounds so much better.
BIG has buckets of charm, with humor and dancing and more quality drama than you might expect. If you’re looking for a good family show with both kid and adult appeal, this one is a good bet.
BIG THE MUSICAL
Directed by Kathy Buterbaugh
Musically Directed by David T. Snyder
December 12-28, 2014
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd
Wilmington, DE 19802