Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “The Big Bang’ set to ignite laughs


John Vessels won’t be able to take advantage of the benefit of having been in “The Big Bang” once before.

Vessels performed in “The Big Bang” 19 years ago in South Florida.

“Much to my terror, I played the other guy, so now I have to learn the entire show over again,” he said, laughing.

Vessels, a Lawrence resident, plays lyricist Boyd Graham in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s production of the comedy musical set to run Jan. 28 to Feb. 20 at the Studio Theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. He previously played composer Jed Feuer in the musical.

The musical is about Jed and Boyd, along with their pal Albert on the piano, staging a backers’ audition for an $83.5 million, 12-hour long musical depicting the history of the world from creation to the present.

The two writers portray everything from Adam and Eve, Julius Caesar to Woodstock to give potential investors a view of the production.

“It’s really a lot of fun,” Vessels said. “It’s breakneck speed, just crazy antics. You cover everything from the beginning of time to the end of time, it feels like. It’s really fun. It’s a great way to wreck an apartment because that is what we spend the show doing. I’ve been doing comedy for pretty much most of my career. I went to college for opera, so I joke they taught me to sing high, cry and die.

“I’ve been kind of a cut-up my whole life, so comedy is where I land and love them.”

This will be Vessels’ first performance since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020. Vessels has taught at Ball State University the past 1 1/2 years.

The musical is directed by Michael Blatt.

“It’s a fun, happy piece, and right now we can use some fun,” Blatt said.

Darrin Murrell, who lives on a farm in Parker City, portrays Jed, and Brent E. Marty joins on stage as the piano player.

Unlike Vessels, Murrell had never heard of the musical.

“It’s always a thrill to find material that you haven’t done before. Having been in the business so long there is hardly a musical I haven’t done three or four times,” Murrell said. “Working with ATI is what always interests me. I’m a big fan of ATI and everything they’ve built and done here over the years. I’ve had the experience of working with them a few times and it’s always one of the greatest experiences that I’ve had.

“Any time there is an opportunity to come back, I know whatever the process is, (it’s) going to be quality, highly entertaining, and if they are calling me to be involved, it’s usually going to be something pretty funny. That’s what drove me.”

Murrell last appeared in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” in 2018.

“I had the great opportunity to do one of the roles that I dreamed of doing since I was young, but I had never aged into it,” Murrell said. “But when they did ‘My Fair Lady,’ I got a chance to play Alfred Doolittle. He’s one of the great characters, not just in theater, but in literature. To get my teeth into that was a thrill of a lifetime.”

Murrell said he has played multiple roles in shows before.

“This is a great challenge to keep the mental acuity in tune to jump from character to character and all the way through history,” he said. “It’s a fun challenge. It’s very different than what I usually do. My lot in life in theater is a character actor.”

Murrell, 55, said he usually has one or two impactful scenes or a signature song.

“That’s my comfort zone,” Murrell said. “To be one of only two people carrying the entire show is a challenge. I started working out training for this. I’m a portly guy. I’ve set a training regime to get my stamina back up.”

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