On opening night of The Big Bang at Asheville Community Theatre, managing director Susan Harper let the audience know that they were in for a night of “equal opportunity silliness.” The disclaimer “for mature audiences only,” found in the program, should only deter those that dislike bawdy humor, cross dressing and metaphors of the naughty variety sung in two-part harmony. ACT’s latest production is a rollicking slapstick of a musical revue of sorts, and anyone looking to take life a little less seriously for an hour and 15 minutes has found the perfect night of entertainment.
The premise is simple, which is all that is necessary to uphold the structure of a show that is essentially a bastardized song-and-dance revue of world history. Jed and Boyd, played by Michael Cheek and Jerry Crouch, are two men in search of investors for their 12-hour, 318-cast-member musical about the entire history of the world. They have somehow taken up residence in the upscale apartment of a vacationing New York couple, and speak to the audience as if they are potential benefactors interested in investing in their show, The Big Bang. Jed and Boyd utilize every part of the apartment to aid them in a “highlight” tour of the script, which begins with Adam and Eve and soars merrily through the Roman Empire, Columbus, colonial America, and even manages to touch on the Irish potato famine. Curtains become togas, lampshades become hats, and a mop head morphs into a lion’s mane. All is adorably ridiculous and hysterical.
Michael Cheek, also known as the ACT Diva 2007, has incredible stage presence and a voice that can do just about anything he wants to with both power and subtlety. His performance was tight from the beginning to the end, and his natural grace made his portrayals of such characters as Attila the Hun (lounge-style), and a Roman lion even more pitch-perfect hilarious. Jerry Crouch’s performance marks his first return to the stage in 11 years, and it took him a bit longer to warm up and keep pace with Cheek. However, by the time Crouch was doing an extraordinary version of Napoleon, it was apparent he had found his groove. After another few nights of shows, this duo will have worked out any and all adjustment kinks and the production will be iron-clad tight.
Eric Mills, the director, had his hands full with only two actors to portray all of human history, but did an excellent job of keeping the pace of the show up and blocking nearly unnoticeable transitions. The set, resplendent with a great deal of convenient animal print, coupled with the props, created a third character of sorts, as Crouch and Cheek left nearly no item unsullied by their performative needs. The actors were able to launch themselves around the perfectly designed space with ease. Overall, the technical elements were well done.
If musical numbers with refrains such as “Free Food and Frontal Nudity” and lines like “That’s a silly myth, it’s a Granny Smith!” pique your interest, The Big Bang is definitely your cup of tea. The aerobic performance of its two actors and sheer indulgence in the silly is a wonderful prescription for the mid-winter blahs.
The Big Bang. Music by Jed Feuer, Book and lyrics by Boyd Graham. Directed by Eric Mills. Musical Direction by Brad Curtioff. Mainstage Jan. 15 – 31. Performances Fridays and Saturdays: 7:30 p.m.; Sundays: 2:30 p.m. Recommended for mature audiences. Box office Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets 254-1320 or www.ashevilletheatre.org.