Arts and Entertainment

It's Big

What kid wouldn’t want to be big? Particularly a kid stuck in the pre-teen world of being too old to do this, and too young to do that.

Whidbey Playhouse’s latest production, “Big, the Musical,” shows that perhaps we should be careful when we wish, because we might just get what we want. The show, which opens Friday, Nov. 2, is a musical based on the movie “Big” that launched Tom Hanks’ career.

While the production’s storyline is the same as the movie — there’s still the oversized piano keyboard on the floor and there’s still Josh eating baby corn — the music adds a new, fresh perspective.

When 12-year-old Josh Baskin, played by Keath Worley, wishes he was big, he’s looking to escape his world of family (parents and a baby sister) and school, with its trials of embarrassments, boredom and breaking voices.

Josh and his best friend Billy, played by Nathan Young, believe that “big boys can take life free and easy.”

One night at a carnival, Josh makes a wish out of frustration at his life.

“I want to be big!” he shouts at a game.

His wish comes true.

The next morning, Josh finds himself vaulted from almost 13 years old to 30. When his mother yells, “Josh, I want to hear your feet hit the floor!” the set shimmies from the force.

Once the now big Josh (Rob Mellish) frightens his mother, he escapes to the city with Billy. But soon, Josh is on his own, “free and easy,” or perhaps scared and lonely, in the world of big boys.

One of the biggest challenges of the production, explained Producer Wayne Locke, is the complexity of the set. The crew had to create a set that could accommodate a busy home, a bus station, an FAO Schwartz toy store, two different city apartments, several offices and a fancy party.

In the musical storyline, Josh wanders around a busy toy store and lucks into a job with a McMillan Toys. What kid wouldn’t want that job?

Pre-teen Josh just made a wish. As an executive at McMillan Toys, Josh learns quickly about the adult world of office politics and office romance — petty jealousies and wheeling and dealing in the halls. He also learns about frustrations when a project isn’t clicking, of falling asleep in a litter of fast-food containers and sharing late night confidences with a co-worker.

Josh and Billy thought big boys can “waltz in when they want to” and that big boys can “handle what comes at them.” But were they thinking of what happens when a person gets so caught up in work and romance that little things in life like friends and family birthdays are forgotten?

From shock at waking up big, Josh moves from being scared and lonely in his new life to maybe being too comfortable as a big person. Finally he understands that big boys have to realize when they are in over their heads. And he learns that being big can be just as confusing as being 13.

Sue Riney, director of “Big, the Musical,” says working with a cast that combines kids and adults is always interesting.

“They (the kids) are a lot of fun,” Riney says. The most challenging aspect of Whidbey Playhouse’s latest production was coordinating schedules. “Everyone is so busy, adults and kids,” Riney said. “We set rehearsals so not everyone had to come in every night: solos were one night, kids another night and adults on another night.”

What Riney says she likes about working with kids is that “they are a lively, vocal, social group that can be energized on stage.” Riney adds that sometimes it might be “hard to calm them off stage.”

For some in the diverse cast, “Big” is their first theater production, others have been in several productions.

Riney believes all kids can benefit by participating in local theater. “Theater gives them a chance to come in and bond with other kids and have a place to fit in. It’s good to see them developing self-confidence and follow through on commitment,” she said. Rehearsals for “Big” coincided with Oak Harbor High School’s homecoming.

According to Riney, some kids had to say, “I can’t do that for homecoming, I have rehearsals.” These young actors got a taste of the difficult choices that come with being big.

Riney enjoys kids’ energy and their different way of looking at life. “The kids taught adults in the cast as much as the adults taught kids,” Riney says.

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