By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
OK, that is genius, up there with The Simpsons' musical adaptation of Streetcar. But the message, if there needs to be one, is that bigger isn't always better. There's a reason tickets to Lincoln Center's production of Tom Stoppard's grim 9-hour Coast of Utopia are easier to score right now than, say, seats for Jersey Boys. Which would you rather sit through: a short, happy one-act musical or a marathon homage to Chekhov set in pre-revolutionary Russia?
Yes, we need more little gems like The Big Bang, which seems to have been inspired by two of Hollywood's greatest movie musicals, or parts of them. The audition gimmick is right out of a scene in The Band Wagon, a 1953 MGM tuner pitting hoofer Fred Astaire against snooty ballerina Cyd Charisse as they suffer artistic humiliation in a splashy Broadway flop based on Faust. And in its frantic pacing, inventive prop handling and relentless slapstickery, Bang is a mash-up of every number Donald O'Connor does in Comden and Green's 1952 MGM classic Singin' in the Rain, particularly "Make 'Em Laugh."
They do make us laugh at Theatre Too, all right—the gasping, wheezing, rocking forward kind—thanks less to Graham and Feuer's pun-filled book and score than to the considerable talents of Messrs. Floyd and Miller, who do everything but run up the walls in this production. In musical comedy, the hardest thing for a performer is to be as good at the singing as he is at the funny. These guys happen to be extremely funny actors, given great freedom by director Dobson to make fools of themselves for our amusement. First and foremost, however, Floyd and Miller are polished vocal performers. Floyd was a star in local cabarets and had recorded several CDs of his own original songs before being cast in his first musical, Pump Boys and Dinettes at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, just three years ago. He hasn't stopped working on local stages since. Miller, master of the lounge lizard leer, is fresh off a starring role in Uptown's sold-out run of the drag comedy Pageant. He's now writing (with partner Bob Hess) a musical version of Valley of the Dolls, scheduled to open at Uptown in late summer.
With weaker singers, Bang could be a bust (the New York critics weren't wild about it when the composers sang the roles they wrote). But Floyd and Miller's strong voices and perfect harmonies blend like buttah. Miller's a killer as a Sinatra-like Attila. Floyd's high tenor ode to the last surviving tuber in Ireland is positively pomme sweet.
With a giddy dig at musicals and history, little Theatre Too knocks 'em dead with Big Bang.