HomeBensalem Times‘Big: The Musical’ celebrates opening night at Bristol Riverside March 21

‘Big: The Musical’ celebrates opening night at Bristol Riverside March 21

Charles Osborne, who appeared in ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep,’ stars as the adult version of Josh Baskin

Charles Osborne plays adult Josh. Submitted Photo

Charles Osborne doesn’t have to worry about getting his cardio in whenever he’s on the Bristol Riverside Theatre stage. 

In fall 2023, he starred in The Mystery of Irma Vep, a two-person marathon of a show that required dozens of costume changes, many of which had to be completed in only 5 seconds. Now, Osborne is getting his heartrate up again at the theater, this time as adult Josh Baskin in Big: The Musical, a dance-heavy stage adaptation of the 1988 hit film Big starring Tom Hanks. Directed by Ken Kaissar, the show runs from March 19 to April 14, with opening night scheduled for March 21. 

“The Tom Hanks film was such a huge part of my childhood in the ‘80s,” said Kaissar. “I’m excited for new audiences to discover the heart at the center of this beautiful story. And we’re delighted to have Charles Osborne back after his brilliant performance in Irma Vep earlier this season. Charles brings an unfettered comedic brilliance to the table and is sure to lead an energy-packed production.” 

Ahead of the premiere, The Times caught up with Osborne, who shared details on what it’s been like taking on another “beast” of a role, how the score adds a fresh layer to the classic plotline, the joy felt at seeing his pre-teen co-stars shine on stage and more. 

“I didn’t realize how, forgive the pun, big this musical was,” said Osborne. “Once I’m on stage, I don’t really leave for another two-and-a-half hours. It’s a lot of dancing, a lot of singing. It’s normally done with a cast of 30 or something like that. The original thing was choreographed by Susan Stroman, the original director and choreographer of The Producers.”

Big: The Musical, which started on Broadway in 1996 and was nominated for five Tony Awards, features all the highlights of the film that fans have come to know and love. There’s the giant piano in the toy store, Josh’s blinding white suit at his company’s work party and, of course, the mysterious Zoltar machine that grants the wish of young Josh, played by Remi Tuckman, to become a grown-up. 

Yet at the same time, according to Osborne, the music — in addition to the intricate set designs and choreography — provides a deeper insight into what the characters are feeling and thinking, making it a fresh portrayal. 

“The music is so beautiful in the way that it tells the story. Everything’s there, but the way that it’s told through song brings so much heart to it. That’s the beauty of musical theater, is that this interior monologue becomes a solo song. You get to hear people’s heart much more in musicals,” he explained. 

For example, in the film, we know that Josh feels scared and alone during his first few nights as an adult, when he’s forced to stay at a sketchy, crime-ridden motel. But in the musical, his fears and emotions are even more evident through the tune “I Want To Go Home.” Additionally, said Osborne, adult Josh’s counterpart Susan Lawrence, played by Erika Strasburg, has several songs that share her side of things in a larger way than what’s seen in the movie. 

“In a lot of ways, the musical just expands everything that you thought about the movie, and just adds this whole extra layer of beauty and heart to it through really great songs,” said Osborne. “And you don’t hear a lot of music like it anymore. Not that it sounds dated, it’s just classic ‘90s musical theater.” 

Out of all the songs, Osborne is particularly excited for audiences to experience “Coffee Black,” the biggest dance number of the entire production that takes place in Act II.

“It’s when big Josh finally feels like he’s completely crossed over into the adult world and he’s gonna drink coffee, and he has this swagger and he’s wearing suits. It’s this 8-and-a-half-minute dance number with the full adult cast going at breakneck speed because we’re all jittery on the coffee. It’s just up-to-the-last-minute pirouettes and jumps, it’s just wild. It’s a beast in and of itself. I think I’m gonna spend the rest of Act II just catching my breath. I’m gonna need a nap after the matinees, for sure,” he said with a laugh. 

Remi Tuckman plays young Josh. Submitted Photo

For Osborne, it’s been an enjoyable experience embodying a pre-teen stuck in an adult’s body. Rather than base his performance on that of Hanks, he’s making it his own. 

“I’m not looking at Tom Hanks at all when I’m working on this. I’m not looking at his portrayal. I’m just trying to look at it from how I would get into this, that out-of-body experience of being a 12-year-old trapped in a 30-something body. You’ve always got to have two minds going at once. You’re always kind of a fish out of water without letting anybody know, and experiencing things in the adult world for the first time with all the joy and excitement of a pre-teen, which is very fun,” he said. 

The cast of Big: The Musical is essentially comprised of three casts: the adults, the kids and an alternate cast of kids. Since rehearsals began, Osborne and the other adults have been working diligently to ensure that their young colleagues, some of whom have never stepped foot on a professional stage, have the best experience possible at Bristol Riverside Theatre. 

“It was important to me to make sure they feel like they are part of the cast, too, that we’re not two separate things even though we often rehearse separately because we’re in mostly separate scenes. Any chance I get, I’m getting to know each and every one of them individually,” said Osborne. “We’re all trying to make them feel so welcome and supported, and they’ve all really come out of their shell. You know, they’re all at that really awkward stage and they’re very shy, so we’re all just taking our time getting to know them and mess around, like shooting rubberbands at each other when we’re not supposed to be. They’ve all opened up and just bloomed, and they’ll all talk your ear off in the best way. They’re adorable.” 

Kalel Carrera, who plays Josh’s best friend Billy, and Charles Osborne as adult Josh. Submitted Photo

When asked if, at the age of 12, he would’ve made the same wish upon stumbling across a Zoltar machine, Osborne firmly declared that he wouldn’t have wanted to grow up so soon.

“I always sort of knew as a kid that you only get one trip around the sun, so enjoy every age,” he said.

And Osborne did just that, living life to the fullest throughout high school and college. Now that he’s in his 30s, he’s grateful that he had that perspective in his younger years, and now has no regrets about things that he could’ve or should’ve done. 

“I partied when I wanted to, I went to nightclubs when I was so excited to go out dancing. Now, I’m good staying home. I didn’t miss that when I had the chance. It’s not about growing up, it’s about being grateful for where you are, seizing every opportunity and just enjoying the moment wherever you are in any stage of life,” he said. “And I think that’s something that I need to be reminded of right now. Life gets harder as you get older. It gets more mundane, it gets more responsibility and it becomes less exciting. You’re constantly worried about bills or whatever instead of being like, ‘Let’s go to the carnival!’ ”

Osborne stressed that tickets for Big: The Musical are going fast, and urged theater-lovers to come out and see the classic comedy in a new light: “This is the show that you can’t miss of the season. It’s just so fun, and it’s going to be the perfect kickoff to your summer.” 

The cast also includes Jackie Washam as Mrs. Baskin, Scott Langdon as Mr. Baskin, Kalel Carrera as Billy, Keith Lee Grant as MacMillan, Noah Lee Hayes as Paul, Amanda Hunter-Finch as Mrs. Watson/Kopecki, Dominick Sannelli as Mr. Kopecki, Peter Kirby as Derek and Chloe Major/Shannon Sharpe as Cynthia Benson.

Bristol Riverside Theatre is located at 120 Radcliffe St. in Bristol. Visit brtstage.org or call the box office at 215-785-0100 for tickets and more information.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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