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Ancient history



The Big Bang blows its biggest idea on its premise. The framework for Horizon Theatre's production is the "backers' audition" for possibly the most oversized show ever mounted on Broadway, also called The Big Bang. Dolph Amick and Shear Madness' George Contini portray the show's creators/producers who woo potential investors by singing highlights from their 12-hour script on the history of mankind.

When Amick and Contini start pitching the musical, The Big Bang offers a hilarious portrait of artistic hubris and Broadway bloat. Their evocations of Egyptian props and hydraulic sets conjure amused memories of Aida's glitchy pyramid at the Alliance Theatre premiere. But by the time Contini portrays Queen Nefertiti as an African-American "sistah" with a bad attitude, The Big Bang starts to fizzle.

Creators Jed Feuer and Boyd Graham first produced the show in the late 1990s, when millennial retrospectives hung in the air. With the whole of history to play with, Feuer and Graham could've hung The Big Bang on some kind -- any kind -- of unifying notion or running gag, if only the march through time of narrow-minded, lust-driven stupidity.

Instead, the show amounts to no more than a musical compendium of ethnic clichés, reviving every outrageous accent you can think of, from lisping Spaniards to Asians unable to pronounce the letter "l." No cultural cheap shot goes ignored, so it's hard to imagine audiences taking offense at stereotypes so silly and far-ranging. But even the relatively fresh perspectives, like the number about China and Japan's national rivalries, rely on dated pop culture quips about, say, Judge Lance Ito and MSG. Miraculously, Amick and Contini remain likable as they quick-change their way through staggeringly lame material, including a duet by Pocahontas and Minnehaha as single gals weary of the dating scene.

Mostly The Big Bang provides a parade of jokes mired in earlier millennia. Only rarely does the show exploit its behind-the-scenes notion of a Broadway disaster in the making. The Big Bang serves best as a reminder of theatrical realities: Behind every famous flop stand people who want their money back.

The Big Bang has an open run at Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave. Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. $20-$25. 404-584-7450. www.horizontheatre.com.

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