"Invest Now!! Opportunity Knocks!!" That's the message that audience members take away, literally, from The Big Bang, a musical comedy about a pair of would-be producers looking for backers.
If I were going to invest in a sure thing, it would be in this endearing show, which was originally performed at Ambler's Act II Playhouse in 2004. It's original, funny and brief. And as Polonius said, "Brevity is the soul of wit." Why suffer through, say, a Long Day's Journey Into Night when you can be entertained, without the angst, by two very talented men (actually, three, counting the piano player) in barely an hour?
A New York apartment
The set may not be lavish, but it's extremely well designed and comprehensive. The intimacy of the Kimmel's Innovation Studio provides the perfect venue for the play's conceit: that we, the theatergoers, have been invited to an affluent New York apartment to hear a pitch.
From a picture window featuring the glittering Manhattan skyline, we know immediately that we're in an expensive apartment overlooking the Empire State Building. There's a Warhol on the wall, an ornate piano and various exotic antiques and plants— all of which play a part.
Keep your eye on the black mantel clock. It will turn into one of the play's most clever accessories. And that cactus plant you find yourself watching for half the show will transform itself into— well, no need to spoil the fun.
Unlike most musicals, The Big Bang boasts clever lyrics with inspired rhymed couplets (rather than the usual cliché-ridden verses). Some of the best musical numbers are "Free Food & Frontal Nudity," "Today's Just Yesterday's Tomorrow," "Pocahontas— the Dating Scene" and "Woodstock: The Event."
The songs always advance the plot, which is, quite simply, the history of the world, from the big bang to the present. History's big names are all here: Nefertiti, Caesar, Attila, Napoleon and Jimi Hendrix, among others.
Of course, this whole confection would be sour without the genius of its star performers, Tony Braithwaite and Ben Dibble, both of whom will be familiar to Philadelphia theatergoers. These two quick-change artists could assemble a complete wardrobe on a desert island. Just watch what they do with a sofa full of pillows, and an umbrella. There are visual puns galore as the duo populates the stage with an imaginary cast of hundreds.
Sonny Leo plays the superb background music while serving as straight man for the crazy antics of Braithwaite and Dibble.
The show they want us, the audience, to invest in, will be the most lavish to land on Broadway, with a cast of 318 wearing 6,428 costumes and an unheard of budget of $83 million. (Obviously, this play was written before Spider-man.) Potential investors might do better to back the real thing: this modest little entertainment.