A relative Broadway unknown with extensive regional and TV credits will lead the national tour of the revised Big on its 33-city tour which begins Sept. 26 in Wilmington, DE.
Jim Newman won the role of big Josh in the musical by John Weidman (book), Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire (music & lyrics), based on the 1988 Tom Hanks film hit about a 12-year-old boy who gets his wish to be transformed into a grownup. The tour, produced by PACE Theatricals and MagicWorks Entertainment, Inc., is scheduled to end June 1998 in Dallas.
Shire told Playbill On-Line the score is being extensively overhauled, with many of the songs from the show's workshop production being restored to the show in place of ones written during the pre Broadway tryout. Shire said the song "I Wanna Go Home" has been cut and replaced with a newly written number, "You're a Big Boy Now," in which Billy convinces Josh that he can make it in the "big" world.
In Steel Pier, the short-lived Kander & Ebb Broadway musical from last season, Newman played Happy McGuire, the marathon dancer with whom Debra Monk as Shelby Stevens flirted. He was paired with Kristin Chenoweth (as perky Precious McGuire) and understudied the role of Bill, played by Tony-nominee Daniel McDonald. Prior to SP, Newman was in the Sunset Boulevard ensemble and understudied the role of Joe Gillis.
The new Big will also star Brett Tabisel as Josh's friend Billy. Tabisel was nominated for a 1996 Tony Award for his Broadway performance in that role. Joseph Mederios will play young Josh. Nick Cokas will play Paul. Ron Holgate, the original Richard Henry Lee in Broadway's 1776, will play toy magnate MacMillan. Holgate played Tito Merelli, the title character in 1989's Lend Me A Tenor on Broadway. Recently he was George Kirby in the Topper musical at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY.
Susan, Big Josh's love interest (portrayed by Crista Moore on Broadway) will be played by Jacqueline Piro; Josh's mother is played by Judy McLane. Piro, a veteran of Les Miserables, portrayed Lily in the national tour of The Secret Garden. McLane is well known to New Jersey audiences at the Paper Mill Playhouse from starring roles in Evita, Oliver!, Nine and Man of La Mancha, in which she played Aldonza. Broadway credits include Kiss Of The Spider Woman and Chess.
Producer Beth Smith told Playbill On-Line the musical has been revised by the creative team and Eric D. Schaeffer (Sweet Adeline at NY's Encores!), the new director for the tour.
Schaeffer, a hot property from Washington's Signature Theatre Company, was nominated twice in the Director/Musical category for the 1997 Helen Hayes Awards, honoring excellence in Washington D.C. theatre, for his Signature productions of The Rink and Passion. He won for the latter, which also took home the prize as Best Musical.
Big's original director was Mike Ockrent of Me and My Girl and Crazy For You fame. He is not involved in this production.
Choreography for the touring edition will be by Karma Camp. She replaces Susan Stroman, of Crazy For You fame, who did the Broadway choreography.
On Broadway, Big got caught up in the 1996 Tony Awards controversy. It joined Victor/Victoria in being snubbed by the Tony nominating committee in the Best Musical category and closed Oct. 13, 1996 after a six-month run, losing its entire $10.3 million investment, and becoming, according to The New York Times, "one of the biggest financial disasters in Broadway history."
Shire said that the team is "going back to an earlier conception" of the show, "a simpler way of doing things," that will include earlier versions of some of the songs.
Maltby and Shire wrote the revues Starting Here, Starting Now and Closer Than Ever. Maltby directed Ain't Misbehavin' and wrote the English lyrics to Miss Saigon. As a team, they wrote the Broadway musical Baby. In an August, 1996 Playbill On-Line interview, Shire, also a veteran film composer, told of his bewilderment at the show's critical drubbing.
Universal Records released the original cast album The score, which was Tony-nominated, includes "Stop, Time" "Dancing All the Time" and "Stars, Stars, Stars." There was also a behind-the-scenes book, Making It Big : The Diary of a Broadway Musical by Barbara Isenberg (Limelight Editions).
The tour will include stops (subject to change) in :
Wilmington, DE (Playhouse) Sept. 26-Oct. 5, 1997
Baltimore (Mechanic) Oct. 7-12
Atlanta (Fox) Oct. 14-19
St Louis (Fox) Oct. 21-26
Indianapolis (Murat) Oct. 28-Nov. 2
St. Paul (Ordway) Nov. 4-16
Columbus (Ohio Theatre) Nov. 18-23
Hartford, CT (Bushnell) Nov. 25-30
Hershey, PA (Hershey) Dec. 2-7
Cincinnati (Aronoff) Dec. 9-21
Pittsburgh (Heinz Hall) Dec. 23-28
Orlando, FL (Bob Carr) D ean. 4, 1998
Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Broward) Jan. 6-18
St Petersburg, FL (Mahaffey) Jan. 20-25
Houston (Jones Hall) Jan. 27- Feb. 1
Denver (Buell) Feb. 3-8
Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County PAC) Feb. 10-15
Seattle (Paramount) Feb. 17-March 1
Portland, OR (Civic Theatre) March 3-8
Buffalo, NY (Shea's) March 17-22
Rochester, NY (Eastman Theatre) March 24-29
Louisville, KY (KY Center for the Arts) March 31- April 5
Syracuse, NY (Civic Center) April 7-12
Jacksonville, FL (Moran): April 14-19
Nashville, TN (Tennessee PAC) April 21-26
San Antonio, TX (Majestic) April 28-May 3
Tempe AZ (Gammage) May 5-10
New Orleans (Saenger) May 12-17
Green Bay. WI (Weidner) May 26-31
Kansas City (Music Hall) June 2-7
Lexington, KY (Opera House) June 9-10
Omaha, NE (Music Hall) June 12-14
Dallas (Music Hall) June 16-28