‘The Big Bang’ Blasts Audiences Through the History of the World

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January 2022

Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI) is proud to present “The Big Bang” beginning Jan. 28 and running through Feb. 20. Bringing historical hilarity and shtick to the Studio Theater, the cast and crew of “The Big Bang” are elated to bring levity back to the stage in a professional and high-quality performance, for which ATI is renowned.

The Premise

In the living room of an elegant Park Avenue apartment in New York City, Jed and Boyd, along with their pal Albert on the piano, stage a backers’ audition for an $83.5 million, 12-hour-long musical depicting the history of the world from creation to the present.

ATI's ‘The Big Bang’

Eighteen sidesplitting numbers portraying Adam and Eve, Attila the Hun, the building of the pyramids, Julius Caesar and Columbus, among others, give potential investors a taste of the impending extravaganza.

In the process, the opulent Park Avenue apartment “borrowed” for the occasion is trashed as the two snatch its furnishings to create makeshift costumes while singing and clowning their way through inventive re-creations of the past. This is one history lesson you’ll never forget.

Meet the Cast

John Vessels as “Boyd Graham.” Vessels is a 30-year veteran of theater and musical theater. He has spent the last year and a half teaching in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Ball State University.

ATI's ‘The Big Bang’
John Vessels

“This production is a revisit for me—I did it in 2002 in a little theater in Florida,” Vessels shared. “It’s a shot-out-of-cannon [production]. It’s a really fast-paced show. I really love the idea of barreling through a scene, and I also particularly like playing at least a million characters in one show. It’s kind of the game of delineating between different human beings that is really fun for me. And so, the opportunity to play 10 or so humans is just a great challenge and a lot fun. It certainly keeps me on my toes.”

Like many professional actors, Vessels doesn’t have a “favorite child” in the way of a scene in this production, but he did share that he has a special place in his heart for one special spud.

“There’s a ballad I sang to a potato that’s pretty magical,” Vessels said. “I sing this beautiful love song to the last potato in Ireland, and it’s as stupid as it sounds and it’s as wonderful as you can imagine, and I like that one a whole lot.”

Vessels also shared his thoughts on working with ATI.

“It always feels like a family affair,” Vessels said. “There’s always so much joy and love attached to the process here, and so I just keep coming back.”

Darrin Murrell as “Jed Feuer.” Murrell has worked as a professional actor, director, producer and educator for over 35 years with theaters all across the country, including extensive work in previous ATI productions and several productions in Indianapolis, Chicago and Portland, Oregon.

ATI's ‘The Big Bang’
Darrin Murrell

“Like most artists, I was completely out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, so this is one of the first opportunities for me to get back out onto the stage,” Murrell said. “But more than that, it is a new show to me. It’s one that I had never heard of, never read about and had never seen. That’s pretty rare, having been in the business for 35 years. There’s not much in the catalogs that I haven’t been involved with one way or the other, so it’s always exciting to do something new. It’s right in my wheelhouse in terms of the kind of entertainment and performance style that I enjoy. I’m a character actor, and so my role is usually to come into one or two scenes, do a song and then head back to the dressing room. So, it’s rare for somebody of my character type to have the opportunity to share the lead of a show. That presented a challenge for me that I generally don’t get to tackle, and I’ve been excited to see if all the muscles and memory were there to climb that hill, and thankfully—it looks like it’s happened!”

Murrell echoed his co-lead’s sentiments on working with ATI.

“The actors get to really be in front of the production,” Murrell stated. “The founding members [of ATI] are all actors, and often, there is a lot of focus on doing larger shows that are traditionally done in larger scale, but ATI pulls them to the intimacy of the Studio Theater. Here it’s the acting that’s up front and drives the show—not that the production levels aren’t brilliant because they are.”

Brent Marty as “Albert” and serving as music director of this program. Marty has been actively involved in the Indianapolis arts community for over 20 years working with several local organizations as a director, musical director, performer, instructor and accompanist. He currently serves as director of music and education for Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, where he has music directed and supervised over 80 productions and administrates the state’s largest classroom-based theater education program.

ATI's ‘The Big Bang’
Brent Marty

“I’m the music director and I’m also the orchestra, which consists of a piano because we’re in these people’s apartment and they just happen to have a piano,” Marty quipped. “My role is not one that is scripted really, but I do have a spectacular entrance and I play the piano, which is something I love to do.”

Marty has performed for many of the local venues since the return of audiences to local theater and shows in Carmel and shared his observations on the community’s unwavering support of the local arts and arts organizations.

“There’s been a focus on the arts, and the mayor has put a focus on it, promoting it and building the Center [for the Performing Arts] along with the city, which has been amazing,” Marty expressed. “I think that is rare in a lot of circumstances when you’re not in a big city. People here seem to understand science and have been willing to get vaccinated, and that helps that they’re willing to do that and can support the arts again. It just shows that the arts are an important part of peoples’ everyday lives in this community.”

Michael Blatt, director. Blatt is a native Hoosier and a New York City-based director, producer and theater educator. As a director, Blatt has worked in Bergen, Norway, where he directed a new Norwegian translation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” Michael is a co-founder of Little Red Light Theatre, an off-off-Broadway theater company specializing in intimate musicals. Other directing credits include “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” for ATI. He is a proud member of AEA, SAG/AFTRA and SDC. For more on Michael Blatt, visit michaelblatt.info.

ATI's ‘The Big Bang’
Michael Blatt

“Bringing people back to the theater is super important,” Blatt emphasized. “This is a fun piece—it is not Shakespeare. This is something you can come see and have a really good time. It’s sort of a take on the history of the world through these crazy guys’ eyes, and it’s also a celebration of theater. It’s super exciting to celebrate New York, musical theater and keeping show business alive at this time.”

Blatt also shared how important it is to celebrate the element of humor and to bring it back to the stage.

“I’m a SAG voter, and I watched all the movies [after the pandemic commenced] and everything was so dark, grim and sad,” Blatt recalled. “I was like, ‘Why aren’t people returning to comedies?’ I think we’re going to start to see that now. We’ve gone through this period of mourning in the arts, and I think it’s the perfect time for comedy. There’s nothing like sitting in the audience and everyone going through the cathartic experience of theater—together.”

This play is rated PG-13. It will be performed at The Studio Theater located in The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. As the pandemic continues, ticket buyers agree to follow all health and safety protocols in the Center’s venues, including face coverings and proof of vaccination or testing.

Tickets are available at atistage.org or by calling the box office at The Center for the Performing Arts at (317) 843-3800.

ATI's ‘The Big Bang’