Imagine waking up one morning to find your pj's suffocatingly tight, your legs hanging off the end of your bed and a five o'clock shadow on your normally smooth face. What would you do? Panic? Admit yourself to a mental hospital? Or just throw on some of your dad's clothes and head out into the bustling city?
Thus begins the adventure of 12--year-old Josh Baskin in Winston Churchill High School's production of "Big: The Musical" (based on the 1988 film written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg). Young Josh finds himself stuck in the body of a grown-up Josh and must learn to survive in the scary adult world.
Paul Penczner delivers a positively charming performance as the adult Josh, behaving adorably awkward and immature. He oozes energy and enthusiasm, particularly in the musical numbers "Fun," "Cross the Line" and "Coffee Black." During "Fun," Josh and MacMillan, the chief executive of the toy company Josh works for, have a delightful duet in which they dance across a giant floor keyboard, the individual keys lighting up as they are danced upon.
Jenny Steiger who plays Susan, has a beautiful and powerful voice. She has great stage presence, as is especially clear in "Cross the Line," where she sings and dances with zeal. Sam Klein is very entertaining as MacMillan. He is convincing as the comical, self-proclaimed "old fart" who just wants to have fun and sell toys. Adrienne Borschuk is impressive as Mrs. Baskin. Despite some sound-system issues during her solo "Stop Time," she delivered a lovely song and handled the technical problems gracefully.
A few problems hinder the performance. At times, scene changes are too slow and noisy. The microphones are not always reliable, although the cast handles this nicely. Finally, there are a few people who don't always quite hit their notes. On the other hand, the orchestra does a wonderful job, and some of the sets are very impressive.
Overall, "Big" is quite a performance. The cast is extremely spirited and exuberant. Despite the occasional stage and sound problem, Churchill delivers a fun and exhilarating production.
West Potomac High School
If you're a pint-size preteen (Matt Sartucci) stuck in the densest state in America (New Jersey) with a major life-or-death problem (girls), there's only one way to make everything better -- get big! Winston Churchill High School takes a touching look at the magic of childhood with its production of "Big: The Musical."
The show opened on Broadway in 1996 and is based on the film of the same name starring Tom Hanks. While attending a local carnival, 12-year-old Josh stumbles upon a mysterious arcade machine and is granted his wish of becoming big. The next morning -- upon realizing he's aged 18 years overnight -- Josh (Paul Penczner) runs off to New York City with best friend Billy (Michael Brick) in hopes of reversing his curse.
While in Manhattan, he is confronted by the smart-alecky, money-grubbing CEO of MacMillan Toys, George MacMillan (Sam Klein), who hires Josh because of his keen eye for identifying what kids find fun. Soon, swept up by the demands of his corporate position and romantically entangled with co-worker Susan Lawrence (Jenny Steiger), Josh realizes that being big isn't exactly what it's cut out to be.
Penzcner, as the 30-year-old version of Josh, portrays his overgrown character wonderfully. With hilarious facial expressions, a superb voice and just the right amount of energy, Penzcner uses a wide range of acting skills. Steiger, as romantic interest Susan, shines with a crisp and clear voice, unhindered by the sometimes faulty microphones.
Klein, as the ultra-pompous CEO MacMillan, portrays his character like a true sleazebag. He delivers line after line with scathing wit, stealing the spotlight nearly every time he steps on stage.
However, what anchors this show is the incredible energy of the entire cast. Though the night got off to a shaky start because of microphone problems and slow shifts, the cast was fully engaged by the end of Act One. Sets, props and costumes add a refreshing splash of color and playfulness to the production. Long scene changes often detract from the show's quick-paced flow, but the cast's undying energy makes up for that problem. The orchestra, which plays note after note with professional polish, should also be commended for a fine performance.
Churchill High School proved it could handle this "big" production.
Edison High School