A brash history of time

You can’t accuse Jed and Boyd of dreaming small.

Their vision involves condensing the history of the world into a sweeping musical epic, starting with the Big Bang and winding up somewhere in the 20th century, and hitting all of history’s highlights in between.

A few snazzy dance numbers thrown in will be just the thing, they think, to ensure a surefire Broadway hit.

No, scratch that — if Jed and Boyd have their way, their musical about the history of time will be the most spectacular musical of all time. The only hard part will be getting someone to cough up the $83.5 million needed to finance the 12-hour-long extravaganza.

And frankly, finding a backer for so immense a dream has proven, well, disheartening.

Still, they somehow arrange for a backers’ audition to be held in the swank Manhattan apartment owned by their vacationing friends the Lipbaums, where the pair plan to hit “just the highlights” of their musical-to-end-all-musicals.

But that means the two must sell the story of the world, complete with musical accompaniment, to a roomful of strangers in a mere 90 minutes.

And there lies the premise of The Big Bang, the Flat Rock Playhouse’s current production.

As Jed (played by Mike Masters) and Boyd (Scott Treadway) make a manic rush from the duet of Adam and Eve, “Free Food and Frontal Nudity,” to Eva Braun’s ballad to Hitler, “Loving Him,” all this historical chaos begins to have its effect on the Lipbaums’ pristine pad. (The history of the world, as you know, is mostly filled with disaster.) It’s a mad, exhausting, politically incorrect hurtle through the ages.

And, like so many cataclysms, it’s also great fun to watch.

“It is a tough show to do, because it is so hectic,” admits director Terry Loughlin during a brief interview following a recent Flat Rock Playhouse rehearsal. As with any production that relies on the frenzied performances of a mere pair of actors (such as the better-known Tuna trilogy), The Big Bang is as much a physical challenge as it is an artistic one.

“The actors really have to take care of themselves, because the show is so taxing,” notes the director. “They may get tired, but you’ll never see that.”

Loughlin has helmed plenty of big-production, number-heavy musicals in his time. The hardest part of staging a less established work like The Big Bang (it had a brief Off-Broadway run at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre four years ago) is the lack of supporting material to draw from, he reveals. Without original recordings of the songs, or even a filmed version of the production, each new cast must essentially reinvent the music.

“There are more than 15 original songs in this production, and we had to learn them from scratch,” Loughlin explains.

And Masters and Treadway must give unflaggingly mercurial performances throughout, playing everyone from a vain Nefertiti (in the song “Viva La Diva”) to the bragging embodiment of “Number One” (Attila the Hun, of course). They even have to spin a little tune about Ireland’s Great Hunger era, in the ditty “Potato.”

As might be expected, the comedy does indulge in some adults-only moments, including some particularly bawdy songs. For a typically mainstream playhouse like Flat Rock, such a provocatively fun show may be just the thing to warm up crowds for more constrained musicals like the upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast.

For his part, Loughlin sees The Big Bang as combining the best elements of a Broadway hit like The Producers with a more edgy, smaller-theater production like The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged.

“It is,” he says, “zany craziness.”

The Big Bang runs Wednesday, June 2, through Friday, Jun 18 at the Flat Rock Playhouse (2661 Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock). Show times are 8:15 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 2:15 p.m. on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $25 and $23, with discounts for students, seniors and groups. Call 693-0731 or visit www.flatrockplayhouse.org for more information.


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