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LIGHTNING REVIEW: 'Big Bang' delivers big fun

Scott Treadway performs as Queen Nefertiti in 'The Big Bang' Scott Treadway performs as Queen Nefertiti in 'The Big Bang'

They start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, to borrow from a higher minded musical.

Scott Treadway and Julian Brightman are Boyd and Jed, two would-be Broadway producers who are housesitting the Park Avenue apartment of Dr. Sid Lipbalm, a wealthy proctologist, and his wife Sylvia, invite a roomful of rich potential investors to pitch their show, "The Big Bang."
It's ambitious.
"It encompasses the entire history of civilization, from the dawn of time to the present day," says Treadway, as Boyd. "It's 12 hours of pure entertainment, in four three-hour segments," adds Brightman, as Jed. It features a cast of 318 actors, 6,028 costumes, 1,400 wigs and 302 prosthetic devices.
Of course the schmucks have no idea how preposterous the whole idea is. They're so passionate about the pitch and so committed to selling it that they have no space left in their heads to consider that it's ... irrational.
Thank goodness for us that they don't.
Foil is us, as the audience.
They start a long long time ago:
Long before Amos Amos teamed with Andy
Long before Hoover was a dam
Long before Godiva was a candy
Long before Virginia was a ham
After covering eons of plant and aquatic life development, Jed and Boyd emerge as Adam and Eve, the first of maybe two dozen hilarious sights. The actors rise from behind a sofa, sheepishly nude from the waist up, to launch us into genesis.
"Free food and frontal nudity," they sing, "is not what it's cracked to be/We're bored with our anatomy and sick of all this fruit."
There's trouble in paradise. The serpent, played by Treadway's right hand, pushes mankind to fall from grace.
Soon enough the Jews are building the Pyramids ("We're Jews, and we're having no fun/ We sing the blues because this stuff weighs a ton."). In the first of many clever stage bits, an ottoman depicts the heavy stones. "Adam and Eve" and the next couple of skits — I lost track —feature a running sight gag, too, based on how many ways the actors can use a plain white T-shirt. It's on, it's off. It's a turban, it's a desert headdress. Bedsheets, drapes, pillow cases, kitchenware all are drafted to serve as improvised costumes and props.
The next scene, Boyd as Queen Nefertiti ("I'm the first diva!"), is classic Treadway, over the top and sassy, funny to hear and watch. The audience reacted uproariously the night I attended.
The rest is history, at 78 rpm.
The scenes race by: Julius Caesar (which morphs into the horse head scene from "The Godfather"), Leo the Christian-eating lion (" ... at the Coliseum/Three squares per diem"), Attila the Hun, wearing a funnel cap ("All these Greeks and Asian savages/I'm the one who rapes and ravages"), singing nuns (a hilarious mime), Columbus and Isabella, Henry VIII, Pocahontas and Minnehaha (cruising for a date in the lobby bar at the Algonquin), and the rise of the Orient.
After "a two-hour dinner break catered by Leonard's of Long Island," Treadway explains to his investor targets, the actors whipsaw the audience "back across the Atlantic" a half dozen times, covering the last 400 years of western civ: Napoleon and Josephine, in which Treadway dons a heavy wooden clock to approximate the famous bicorne hat and sings a number sounding very much like Bob Dylan; a "Gone with the Wind" sendup starring Buford T. "Daddy Bear" Peckerwood and his Southern belle daughter Amber Lee; the potato famine (with Brightman's funny and touchingly performed ode, as Paddy O'Gratin, to the last spud in Ireland) ... whew!, I'm tired just remembering it ... until finally the actors crash land at the iconic moment of the Sixties, when "we take you to New York, where we re-enact the entire three-day concert" at Woodstock. Wearing a bright green Chia Pet, Treadway lights into Jimi Hendrix's iconic "Star Spangled Banner" — only to be jolted to the present day by the ringing telephone.
Of the 25 or more split-second character transitions, this may one be the funniest. He goes from hyped actor to a 12-year-old boy. "Nothin," he says into the phone, in answer to, we imagine, "What's happening there?"
The climatic final scene is the actors' hyperkinetic attempt to put everything back in place while singing a patter song of shorthand references to every political, cultural and musical highlight of the 20th century.
Besides, Brightman and Treadway, in a performance that's both marathon and sprint, the show features Willson Moss, carrying the instrumental load on piano and keyboards.

Director Amy Jones has done a good job making the performance plays to all three sides, something Treadway noted he did not have to do when he performed this show on the Main Stage in 2004.
The "12-hour show" comes in at the Playhouse Downtown in just under an hour and 25 minutes, no intermission. Any more than that and the county's new "peak load" EMS crews might have to stage outside on Main Street to treat an outbreak of busted gut.
It's a hilariously fun show. If you like your history with a coating of comedy — check that, a supernova's worth of comedy — you'll love "The Big Bang."

"The Big Bang" plays through July 14 at the Playhouse Downtown, 125 S. Main St. Evening performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and matiness are 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets: $35. Box office: 828-693-0731 or 866-732-8008, or go to