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Big family time

Kids, parents, and siblings all part of the show in the Civic Theater’s production of Big

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Anyone who remembers the plot of Big, the 1988 box office hit starring Tom Hanks, can recall that one of the story’s themes is the seemingly huge gulf that separates the world of children and adults, kids and parents. So there’s a little bit of irony in the fact that the Civic Theater’s production of Big: the Musical has so many family members in the cast.

“The interesting thing that we didn’t realize we would happen during pre-production is the number of ‘family units’ in the show,” says Director Brad Beauchamp. “We’ve got a mother and daughter; a mother and son; brother and sister; mother, father, and their son…”

Beauchamp had the task of coordinating the production crew as they tackled the challenges of bringing the stage version of the film to the Arts United Center. Beauchamp says it was tough: “old school” musicals have short musical interludes built in to the story to hold an audience’s attention while scene changes are taking place; in more modern musicals like Big, the action never breaks. The scene changes, with all the high-tech gadgetry, are part of the show. “What we had to do was build in our own transitions,” Beauchamp says. “It cross-fades from one scene into the other, with very smooth and fluid transitions, as a film would.”

Another part of Beauchamp’s duties was directing his 11-year-old daughter Emma in the show. “I’ve never coached my kids in any sport, and I don’t think I’d ever want to,” he laughs, adding that though he’s not much of a “Bobby Knight type of director,” he does have one particular peeve, and his daughter usually hears a lot about it. “I am pretty stern about ‘you cannot leave your fellow actors hanging on stage. You cannot miss your cues,’” he says.

Some of the families involved in Big were “drama families” in the first place, with one or both parents involved in performance and local theater at some level. 22-year-old Taylor graduate Nate Todd, who plays one of the smarmy yuppie-types in the play, is in Big with his mother Deb and father Steve. His parents encouraged him to try out for a school production during his freshman year of high school. “They always say ‘do it once and if you don’t like it, you never have to do it again.’” Todd recalls. To him, the notion of being up on stage, or working with his parents on stage, wasn’t all that unusual. “My family has had their singing groups and performing groups for as long as I can remember, so to me it just seems like normal fare,” he says.

Most of the other families in the production have younger children. Big is the fourth stage production Amy Bowman and her son Alex have done together. “I don’t see him very much during the daytime because he’s a freshman at Dwenger, so this gives us an opportunity to catch up and spend a little time together,” says Amy, who recently finished a production of The Wizard of Oz with her husband, her son, and her two daughters. “It makes it a special time, a family time. You share in your talents and not being afraid to get up there.”

“It’s great to have that support,” adds Alex.

Aimee Lackey plays Mrs. Baskin (Josh’s mother), and her daughter Emily is making her Civic Theater debut in Big. Aimee says that with rehearsals that can go late in to the night, she’s spending more time with Emily that she otherwise would have. They’re sharing an experience together, and she also thinks her daughter is learning something. “I’m hoping it’s teaching her responsibility and discipline,” Aimee says. “It’s neat for her to see the show come together from the very beginning to the end, to see all the hard work that goes in to it.”

“With this particular production, it’s obvious that the family members are close,” adds Deb Todd, Nate’s mother. “There’s a little bit of an intimacy there that’s enhanced because you’re sharing the whole process of creating something. It creates not only the experience as you are doing it, but I know it’s something we’re going to talk about for a long time.”

Performances: Fridays and Saturdays Nov. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 8 pm; Sunday Nov. 5, 12, and 19 at 2 pm
Tickets: Adults-$24; Age 23 and under-$16; Sunday Senior Matinees, $20
Box Office: (260) 424-5220

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.