Part paean to Pop culture, part parody of big-budget Broadway musicals, part revival of Borscht-Belt humor of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and one hundred percent entertaining, THE BIG BANG is back in Philadelphia by popular demand. The current revival at the Kimmel Center features the original 2004 award-winning cast of Philly favorites Tony Braithwaite and Ben Dibble, accompanied by musical director/pianist Sonny Leo. The plot of this zany musical comedy is rooted in the all-too-common misconception that the more money you spend on a theatrical production, the better it will be (witness Broadway’s very expensive but much maligned SPIDER-MAN).
Presented in the format of a play-within-a-play, a pair of overly zealous producers, Jed (Dibble) and Boyd (Braithwaite), pitch an $83,500,000 twelve-hour musical history of the world to an audience of prospective funders–unwittingly played by the actual audience. The two energetic cohorts take on all the roles of their historical characters, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, in a frenetically condensed one-hour backers’ audition. Appropriating the Upper East Side apartment of the vacationing Dr. Sid and Sylvia Lipbalm (whose cat they were entrusted to feed), the high-strung duo cleverly uses the household décor and accoutrements as makeshift costumes and props, with an upside-down lampshade serving as Nefertiti’s headpiece, a metal colander as Attila the Hun’s helmet, and open umbrellas providing hoops for an improvised antebellum skirt.
The side-splitting performances by Braithwaite and Dibble combine animated song-and-dance numbers, quick changes, direct interaction with the audience, and spot-on comedic timing, as they satirize such noted historic personages as the Virgin Mary, Julius Caesar, Henry VIII, Napoleon and Josephine, Pocahontas and Minnehaha, Mahatma Gandhi’s mother, and Eva Braun. Their tongue-in-cheek spoofs of outrageous, outdated, anachronistic stereotypes will have you laughing out loud in spite of your better judgment about political correctness. Among the funniest scenes is a conversation between Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella, whose ‘Spanglish’ is loaded with malapropisms and double-entendres.
A tastefully appointed set design by Bradley Helm captures the upscale ambiance of a Park Avenue penthouse, replete with a Warhol-style portrait and a spectacular sunset view of Manhattan. Non-stop choreography by Karen Getz and rapid-fire direction by Richard Parison keep the actors moving, and the audience laughing, from one hilarious scene to the next. For more information, see www.bigbangthemusical.com.
THE BIG BANG
Book and Lyrics by Boyd Graham
Music by Jed Feuer
Directed by Richard M. Parison, Jr.
September 14-October 30, 2011
Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center
300 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102