The Big Bang Musical Review – See Hysterical, Hilarious History

A trip to the Kimmel Center, to see The Big Bang Musical, with co-stars Tony Braithwaite and Ben Dibble, is a highly hilarious romp through world history. It’s a must-see, comedic tour de force. It is playing at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio, through Sunday, October 30.

Over the course of a lifetime of attending theatrical events, we had never previously laughed this hard, at a performance. And that is not a statement that we make lightly, for two reasons.

The first is that we have always attended many shows and plays.

The second is that we have seen Braithwaite perform his majestic comedic magic, on many occasions over the years. The three-time Barrymore winner - and 12-time Barrymore nominee - is always magnificent. (His performance as Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, at the Arden Theatre Company in Old City, remains our favorite.)

However, prior to last night, we had never had the opportunity to see Braithwaite perform with Dibble, another highly accomplished, Barrymore-winning actor.

Dibble was the winner of the 2006 F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Barrymore Award. He has appeared in over 50 productions, on such stages as the Arden, the Wilma, the Walnut Street, the Lantern, Act II Playhouse in Ambler, among others. And he’s even an adjunct professor of Musical Theatre at West Chester University, Temple University, and The University of the Arts.

In summary, the chemistry on stage between such talented actors as Braithwaite and Dibble, is a feat of theatrical alchemy, yielding pure comedic gold.

The Big Bang Musical Review – A Synopsis (But We Won’t Give Anything Away – No Spoilers!)

The Big Bang Musical uses the classic theatrical device of the “framework narrative” – i.e., “the play-within-a-play” – and it’s one of our favorites. The setting is a lavishly furnished Park Avenue apartment – and the set was absolutely beautiful. (The Andy Warhol hanging on the wall is particularly distinctive.)

In addition, the entire show “breaks the fourth wall” - i.e., the actors speak directly to the audience in the second person. Braithwaite is a master of this acting technique – of all the actors we have seen, he has always been the best at breaking the fourth wall.

Braithwaite and Dibble play the roles of Boyd and Jed, respectively. They are aspiring Broadway playwrights, who have penned the music, lyrics, and libretto to a musical titled The Big Bang. Their endeavor is breathtaking in its scope – The Big Bang will musicalize the entire history of the world, in less than 90 minutes!

And it’s not just the time window – as the production puts it, it will be:

“the most expensive and lavish Broadway musical ever written, with a budget of $83 million, a cast of 318, 6428 costumes, and 1400 wigs.”

A talented pianist – Sonny Leo, in the role of Albert – provides a musical prelude, prior to the appearance of the actors. Then, Albert deftly and smoothly accompanies Boyd and Jed, as they perform all 318 of the roles of the putative production of The Big Bang.

As for you in the audience – you’re in the show, too!

You collectively play the roles of potential investors – “backers” in theatrical parlance – in financing the production, thus bringing Boyd and Jed’s dream of succinct history to full fruition, on the Great White Way. The entire show consists of Boyd and Jed making the pitch to you.

Although your role of “Potential Backer” in The Big Bang Musical is (officially) silent, you won’t be silent in reality, because you’ll be laughing hysterically, throughout the performance!

Boyd and Jed begin their performance of the “the play-within-a-play” by completely darkening the theater, to evoke the nothingness that predated "the big bang" - the creation of the universe. Hence, the title...

(Note: The Big Bang Musical was written way back in 1997, a decade before the CBS hit comedy, The Big Bang Theory, which did not air until September 2007. They are not related in any way, shape, or form!)

After the lights are turned back on, Boyd and Jed start with Adam and Eve, with Boyd playing both Adam and the talking snake.

Then, they start sprinting through 5,000 years of recorded history:

Ancient Egypt and Nefertiti;

Ancient Rome and Julius Caesar;

Attila the Hun;

The Dark Ages and Middle Ages;

The Renaissance – Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain, as well as her son-in-law, King Henry VIII of England;

Native Americans and initial European settlement;

Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine;

The antebellum South;

The 20th and 21st centuries.

The scenes were accompanied by ludicrous props and costumes, and great mirth and merriment ensued throughout the performance. You will never look at a lampshade - or an umbrella - the same way again!

We will say no more about the “the play-within-a-play”, because we don’t want to ruin any of the jokes and/or surprises. The play, which runs about 80 minutes, just zips by. And we simply didn’t want it to end.

We're avid aficionados of history. Accordingly, it’s difficult to select a favorite scene, since they were all side-splittingly funny. But because we have a particular intellectual interest in the Tudor period and the Renaissance, we’ll pick the Henry VIII one. (Also, we noticed that in one scene, Braithwaite - when playing the role of a soothsayer - worked in an element of his aforementioned virtuoso performance in Forum.)

The Big Bang Musical – Key Information

It is playing at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio, through Sunday, October 30, 2011.

We attended the Thursday, October 20, performance. (Also, there is no chance of it being extended beyond October 30, as the cast is committed to other projects.) The remaining performances:

Friday, 10/21/2011, 8:00 PM,

Saturday, 10/22/2011, 5:00 PM,

Saturday, 10/22/2011, 8:00 PM,

Sunday, 10/23/2011, 3:00 PM,

Wednesday, 10/26/2011, 7:00 PM,

Thursday, 10/27/2011, 7:00 PM,

Friday, 10/28/2011, 8:00 PM,

Saturday, 10/29/2011, 5:00 PM,

Saturday, 10/29/2011, 8:00 PM,

Sunday, 10/30/2011, 3:00 PM.

Tickets for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday performances are $30 apiece; for Saturday and Sunday performances, $39 apiece.

Make sure that you get there early!

Make sure that you get there early, as there is a musical prelude by Leo on the piano, that begins about 15 minutes, prior to the official performance time. In addition, you have to contend with Center City parking. You do not want to miss a single minute of The Big Bang Musical – trust us!

For more information and tickets, you can call 215.731.3333.

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