Regional Reviews: San Francisco
The Big Bang is Tuneful Good Fun
Also see Richard's review of Humpty Dumpty
Do you want to invest in an $85 million dollar musical with 300 singers and dancers in a production that will run over twelve hours and is based on the history of the world? Well the American Musical Theatre of San Jose is currently presenting a wild and political - not politically correct - show called The Big Bang at the Theatre on San Pedro Square in San Jose. This is a fast paced 90 minute show, with intermission, involving two would be Broadway producers trying to promote a new musical to an audience of potential backers. We, of course, are the prospective buyers.
The clever musical by Jed Feur and Boyd Graham, composer and lyricist of the 1992 side splitting Eating Raoul, had its premiere at the Douglas Fairbanks Theater in New York on February 15, 2000 where it ran until April 16, 2000. The New York Times said "Smashing Entertainment. The show you've been waiting for." This can be compared to Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I with music added. The puns come fast and furious and the lyrics to some of the songs are hilarious.
There are playful innuendos, such as Julius Caesar's wife Hypernia, who has a sister named Hernia, or two Indians during the selling of Manhattan having drinks at the Algonquin "where they have no reservations" prior to going to the big "bow wow." Neither wants to go and they decide to "scalp" their tickets. I love the scene where the Jews are building pyramids for the Pharaoh of Egypt and they sing "We're Jews and We Got the Blues."
The score and lyrics have plenty of bounce and you can't help but laugh at some of the zingers that are thrown out at the audience. The two men are constantly on stage and they use all of the props in their living room set. A lampshade and scarf create a grooving Queen Nefertiti, two open umbrellas turn a piece of curtain fabric into a hoop skirt for the Civil War scene, a black lacquered mantelpiece clock with gold trim becomes Napoleon's hat and the two guys turn into Shanghai Lil and Tokyo Rose by placing bundles of yarn with knitting needles on their heads. They do quick changes in full view of the audience.
Understudy John Bisceglie (he played Captain Hook in the Broadway by the Bay production of Peter Pan) replaces regular Richard Frederick on the Sunday matinee performance, while Bob Greene (who has played many roles at 42nd Street Moon) plays the other impresario. The timing between the two was a bit off when I saw the show - this might be due to it being the understudy's first time on stage. Bisceglie really hams it up, playing Queen Nefertiti as a jivin' black type character with a big attitude. He also does a very good Queen Isabella with a phony Lupe Velez or Charo accent. Greene is a more subdued comic but his impression of Brando as Caesar is right on the mark.
Some of the scenes are tasteless, especially the nun scene that really does not make any sense, and the Irish potato famine scene is downright silly as Bisceglie sings a song about the many ways you can prepare the spud. Also, the Eva Braun torch song seems a tad too much. If you are easily offended, don't go, but all in all I had a fun time at the show.
The Big Bang runs thru May 4th at the Theatre On San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro Square, San Jose. For tickets call 408-283-0200 or visit www.tosps.com.