BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City. That is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better. Seeing your death changes you. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle. Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album with a few friends and self-released it (selling tens of copies), headlined at a major night club in New York City to two full houses and just played the lead role in the reading play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve, The Songwriter.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

On The Other Hand...

Click on the image to see it in full size!

Wednesday's shows were both packed AND riotously fun with much cackling, guffawing, laughing and sniffles coming from both audiences. The Wednesday matinee was our biggest crowd yet. They were hanging from the rafters. The producers were hauling chairs up from the basement. The balcony was overflowing. Man, that felt good!

Traditionally, this week is the best box office week for theater in New York. All the people are off work. Their families are in town. Tourists are here for the big Times Square ball drop. It's a fun time to be in New York, especially with the cold, but nice, weather we've been having.

Above, by the way, is the big review posted in the Daily News. That picture is of Ethel from Annie Get Your Gun.

Oh, and my voice got progressively stronger on Wednesday. So, whatever was going on with me is finally passing. But I'm going to learn the lessons I learned from just not pushing hard. Every night is a real adventure as I learn more and more about the best way to play our scenes. I love this whole learning process. Doing this show is like to going drama school. Every single night I have a chance to make it just a little bit better. Fun!

EDIT: Amy comments: Wait, wait, you left out the part where you VERY professionally cracked up laughing on stage and THEN got a second curtain call. :)

I forgot to mention. After last night's show, the applause kept going on and on. We got to the fire escape headed down to our dressing room and I said to Jim, "They're still applauding!" So we headed back up and took another bow. That was sweet!

Jim is doing this bit as a southerner that is totally cracking me up now. I am doing my best to get through the scene, but once he smells blood in the water, he's like a shark.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Quiet Tourists

Last night's show was totally bizarre. We had a very full house, so we were expecting a great audience response, as we normally do with big houses. Excited that business was so good, this post-Christmas week, we bounded onto the stage and began delivering our punchlines.

Nothing.

Soldering on, we thought, "Okay, they're weighing us in their minds, watching to see what's going to happen. This has happened before. After all, it's New York. They've seen the best of the best. They're holding back."

We continue. Everything is landing like lead balloons. The front part of the house is responding, but everything past beyond where we could see? Nothing.

Now we're starting to get freaked out. This is just bizarre. We've NEVER failed, during this run, to get a response. They always finally catch on. The second act was a little better, but still, it was making me most uncomfortable.

Then, discussing it with Amy this morning, who was in the audience last night, she said, "About the audience: it was filled with Japanese tourists, many of whom didn't speak much English. The only way you can please those people is well... if you were Cats.."

Ah, New York. I jes' luvs ya.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day & The Missing Leg

On Christmas Eve Sunday morning’s “Meet The Press,” Rev. Rick Warren of “The Purpose Driven Life” (who seems like a decent enough fellow though we disagree completely on homosexuality) made the comment that progress in social areas such as poverty and AIDS can only be achieved when government, business and faith leaders join together in a single purpose. His analogy was that you needed three legs in order to be stable -- "Government is one leg. Unstable. Business is one leg. Two legs are unstable. 'Churches' are the third leg. That's stable." I would suggest that there is a fourth leg missing from the equation: The Arts.

Put a bunch of Christians, Jews and Muslims in the same room, all claiming that God "gave" them the land that building sits on and you have Lebanon. Or Palestine. Or Jerusalem. But sing them a song! Then watch the magic. Or put on a really good movie. Or a musical!

This past year, a small synagogue steeped in theatrical history – one which provided a home for rejected entertainers early in the 20th century – was shrinking due to changing demographics and the tides of history. Enter: A cantor turned rabbi looking for a creative solution who chooses to convert the house of worship, part-time, into an Off-Broadway house, and who extends an invitation to a little musical about a gay marriage between a displaced Catholic and an ostracized Baptist which was looking for a theatrical home in New York City.

Result: A NY Times rave for “The Big Voice: God or Merman?” and phones ringing off the hook along with an influx of new members.

Rev. Warren, I like the comment you made on that show that we need civility in our culture again, to learn to work with people with whom we have a common goal even when we disagree on other things. The other evangelicals lambasted you for sharing your pulpit with Barack Obama. You said you'd work with any openly gay person as long as it meant doing something about AIDS. I never dreamed when we opened at the Actors' Temple that part of our mission would be to help save a synagogue.

But on Saturday, when Jimmy and I were walking down there, we took a little detour into St. Malachy's Catholic Church, also known as "The Actors' Chapel." Jim wanted to see who the pastor was.

We saw a couple of men in work clothes up near the pulpit area, fixing the place up for Christmas services and decided to ask. Before we got 10 feet away, he said, "It couldn't be."

And sure enough, the Pastor was a man Jimmy went to seminary with, Rev. Richard Baker. A handsome young man, he beamed at Jimmy and hugged him, exclaiming, "I've heard all about your show! I love Rabbi Jill. In fact, just last week, she was here and we were helping deliver flyers for the Temple all through the neighborhood. They were on one side and we were on the other."

And suddenly I fell totally in love with New York City.

The other night, we were on our way to the theater. We were walking down 9th Avenue passing 51st street. The trees along the street were wrapped in white Christmas light and I heard the clop, clop, clopping of a horse and buggy. The sound echoed down the quiet street and it suddenly felt like "Christmastime in the city."

But nothing prepared me for the image of the Church helping out the synagogue by printing flyers for them, joining hands together in mutual support.

Rev. Warren, who is in California, has angered the southern evangelicals by insisting that "others" are not the enemy simply because people don't agree with us on everything. It saddens me that most of the exuberant anger and religious incivility in our culture is coming from the south, especially since I come from the south and I know that people down there are, at heart, really good people. But it doesn't only come from there. In Jerusalem, it was Orthodox Jews who threatened violence against a gay pride parade. In the Baghdad, one type of Muslim is dying at the hand of another type of Muslim for simply having the wrong name.

The culture of incivility can change. What it takes is leadership from a few souls who simply refuse to take part in the culture war, and who provide the role models of civility.

Our show lives because of Rabbi Jill. The Actors' Synagogue has a new lease on life because of The Big Voice and The Actor's Chapel. Rev. Warren is leading evangelicals to work on AIDS, hunger and poverty. We all can have mutual goals. But it takes all four legs to make a chair. Footstools are nice, but chairs are so much more stable. And comfy, too!

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

From The Mailbag...

Fiddler asks:
So, Mr. Performer, when you get to see an amazing show like the one you described, how does it influence YOUR acting? Do you spin off into how you might write your next one?

Well, it totally does. I think the best way to learn excellence is to experience it. To see a great work of art in one's field automatically raises the bar on what you can envision as a possibility. As you know, we've gotten great reviews for our show, but that doesn't automatically turn me into Sondheim. So much of our great reception comes from our story, how real it is, Jimmy's superb book, and, frankly, luck.

But for me, as I work on new music, once I see something as great as Grey Gardens, I start to think how I can achieve similar results. How I can find a way to more intricately mix book, music and lyrics.

As for my acting, I feel like I learn something new every night. I'm still trying to simply stay as "present" as possible every single moment on stage. To say my words meaningfully and to keep it "real." As I learned when my voice was weak, I don't need to "act" or "push." I can just be there, say the words and let the emotions come to me as naturally as possible. It's a moment to moment thing and it can only be done by concentrating, wholly and completely, while on stage.

I have so much more to learn, but where else better could I learn than in a city filled with the best stage actors in the world?

Charlotte Rae Visits The Big Voice


Charlotte Rae, Broadway (the original Mammy Yokum) & TV star ("The Facts Of Life") came to see The Big Voice. We hung out later at Joe Allen's trading stories and laughing a lot. We love Charlotte.

Grey Gardens, the musical. My review.

(I am working off my old laptop. Most of the keys stick and I can't download video because Sony's software won't load onto this thing since the CD burner is broken, but at least I can do email and other limited things. We're checking into various insurance possibilities to see if we can replace what was stolen. So, I'm here. Broken, but unbowed.

I had given this machine to a friend who really needed it to get back on his feet after some tragedies in his life so I felt like a heel asking for it back temporarily, but he understood.)

Our pal Michael Alden is producing the musical "Grey Gardens" on Broadway based upon the amazing and painful to watch documentary of the same name featuring two members of Jackie Kennedy's family, living in their old mansion in the Hamptons surrounded by 90 cats, living in squalor. If you haven't seen that docu, rent it.

The musical itself is nothing short of a spectacular work of art. This is truly what theatre writing is at its highest level. The convergence of book, music and lyrics is seamless and artful. It's "Old fashioned" only in the sense that it's carefully, meticulously crafted writing. But it's not a "hat and cane" show. It's dramatic, scary, hilarious, poignant and, then, sad as we watch a society mother and daughter fall apart into madness and ruin right before our eyes.

Christine Ebersole rightly gets the most attention for her scary-real portrayal of "Little Edie" but Mary Louise Wilson, as her needy, manipulative mother is right there matching her stride for stride. If these two don't win a pair of Tonys, there is simply no justice in the world. They lead you on a journey seriously fraught with danger and laughs around every turn; a roller coaster of possessiveness and loss. The aching "Around The World" is a tour de force of writing, and is a perfect marriage of singer and song.

Composer Scott Frankel's music along with Michael Korie's inventive, clarifying, tight lyrics intermix with Doug Wright's carefully crafted book in ways rarely seen these days in any musical. The rest of the cast, including our old friend, Bob Stillman as a fey pianist who clings to the family in act one, depending on mother Edith (also portrayed by Ebersole) for all his clothing and income, and who eggs her on to sing and then disrupt Little Edie's life, is spot on.

The show begins quickly in the present as we peer into their dilapidated home and Edith (Wilson) tries to sing an old song remembered from a party for Little Edie as she brings home her own Kennedy to marry (Matt Cavanaugh). We flash back to an elegant living room and our first image of Edith is that she's a classy society dame. What was amazing about the structure of the book was how we slowly see her fall from her perch. That she's an "actress" and "singer" who isn't good enough for the hoity toities of society.

And just as you start to feel sorry for her, you watch her destroy her daughter's life and pending romance slyly and viciously, setting us up for Act Two in which we see them years later, confined together in madness and fleas, cats and lost dreams.

I posted this before, but just in case you missed it, here is the amazing song "Around The World" from Act Two which I caught at the ASCAP function. It tells you everything you need to know about this polished, startling show. Bravo to all involved.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lighting & Sound Post A Thoughtful Rave For Us

We got another terrific rave review today from an online magazine called "Lighting and Sound." The writer does a very nice job of summing up The Big Voice and discussing it in much greater detail than most of the other reviews (without giving too much away). Very thoughtful.
The show ends on a genuinely moving note, as the pair discover that, through their work on The Last Session, they've given new hope to many in their audiences. It's a surprise ending that reveals that the question in the title may be nothing more than a false distinction. It's a particularly timely point at this moment in our culture-one that a number of recently outed pastors might wish to ponder. --David Barbour

NY Daily News Raves!

It took them awhile to finally print the review, but it's GREAT NEWS!! The New York Daily News has given us a rave review with excellent pull-quotes. Another one down!

They chose Ethel, not regular

There is more than one love story chronicled in the funny, tender and thoroughly entertaining two-man show "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" at the Actors Temple Theatre (339 W. 47th St.). One of them is between "Voice's" creators and performers, Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin, who play themselves in the musical memoir. The other is between the pair and the theater - a relationship that has changed their lives. They discover that the theater has helped them do the same for others, and anyone who loves the theater will relate - and should see this show.
The parallels between the men's early lives and experiences prove fascinating. Schalchlin, a Baptist from Arkansas, figured he'd be a preacher, but fell in love with music. The Brooklyn-born Catholic, Brochu, dreamed (seriously) of being the Pope - until he heard the legendary Ethel Merman on the "Annie Get Your Gun" LP (we've incorporated a shot of her in that signature role at left). Then, in 1959, he saw Merman in "Gypsy" at the Broadway Theatre. Click. "It was like church," he says, "but with energy."

The now-middle-aged men met on a cruise ship and made lives together in the theater, not the church. Like their long relationship, the show isn't all smooth sailing. But even when it meanders and occasionally treads into too-much-information territory, the "Big Voice" captivates with its big heart.

Joe Dziemianowicz


Thank you, Joe!

YOU CANNOT KEEP ME DOWN

I just wanted to underscore the fact that, of all the tragedies in my life, this little incident was a small one. I am over it. Or will be over it soon enough. If anything, I'm just still kind of in the after effects of the shock since it only just happened. No doubt it was some drug user who has pawned it to someone else.

Nothing will keep me down, reader. I've been through the worst of the worst. (Try two weeks of I.V. Pentamadine if you really want to know what "worst" feels like).

Soon, I will have NEW video and NEW photos. All is well here. And just in case you didn't see the announcement in the blog below:

A few days ago, we went down to Wall Street to record a radio broadcast for OUT-FM RADIO here in town. Now we have the news from Scott, our publicist:

JIM BROCHU AND STEVE SCHALCHLIN, FROM THE HIT OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL, "THE BIG VOICE: GOD OR MERMAN", JOIN MARLE BECKER ON OUT-FM, CHRISTMAS MORNING, 12/25/06, 11:00 AM, ON WBAI RADIO, 99.5 FM. And, they stream to the Net. Just go to WBAI.ORG and click around. Marle was wonderful and he is a huge fan of our show.

Yesterday, we taped a TV interview for GAY USA TV with Andy Humm and Ann Northrup. It will broadcast locally, but it also broadcasts on the DISH Network and will be playing all week. There is also a podcast. So, check out the links and either catch us on the tube or listen to us on the podcast. We had a great time with Andy and Ann.

We also did an interview for Backstage magazine for the "Self Starters" column. I'll have photos and video of all these events soon.

TV, Radio & Some Reflections about the Theft

Thanks for the kind words about the stolen laptop. Last night, when we got to the dressing room, it felt weird. And to answer a question that was raised, yes, the dressing room was locked. There is, however, a window that looks out onto a secure couryard. The police think the thief either got into the building through one of the front doors (which wasn't locked during the show), and made his way downstairs, then out into the courtyard, saw the laptop and went in through the window (though there were a lot of things on the ledge that were completely undisturbed including a lot of dust) or they jimmied the lock on the dressing room.

It was hard, though, to walk back into that room and look at the place where the laptop was and know that someone could be still around. What if they had gained access to the courtyard through some unknown access point? What if they were still watching us? It all felt so very creepy and weird. What if they're using the laptop's bookmarks to read this right now?

All I can say is that we're securing the room better, blacking out the windows and there will be no valuables left anywhere in the room at any time from now on.

We had another wonderful show last night, but I was stumbling over words. My concentration was a little off. I kept thinking of the room ("What if he's down there looking around again?") and I kept thinking of the lost video footage which, for me, was just as, if not more, valuable than the laptop itself. I just felt violated. Raped. And vulnerable. That little bubble of protection we imagine to be surrounding ourselves is a fragile thing and an illusion.

I remember once, long ago, when I was with my first boyfriend, Terry, back in Dallas. We came home to our apartment and it had been broken into. The door was wide open. Our things were ripped off. You just feel naked. You realize that we live in an environment where there are people looking for every opportunity to take what you have even if you don't have that much.

Jim and I are not even remotely rich. We fight and sweat for every last thing we own. We try to make it from month to month, and the things that we do have, we use them to help us in our careers and to promote our little show. "The Big Voice," for all the great reviews and word of mouth we're getting, is still in the beginning stages of finding and securing an audience. Our marketing team is working every angle. Even a Times review will only take you so far. You have to figure out how to take that review and turn it into more press, more coverage.

And to that end, we have been making some appearances around town. A few days ago, we went down to Wall Street to record a radio broadcast for OUT-FM RADIO here in town. Now we have the news from Scott, our publicist:

JIM BROCHU AND STEVE SCHALCHLIN, FROM THE HIT OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL, "THE BIG VOICE: GOD OR MERMAN", JOIN MARLE BECKER ON OUT-FM, CHRISTMAS MORNING, 12/25/06, 11:00 AM, ON WBAI RADIO, 99.5 FM. And, they stream to the Net. Just go to WBAI.ORG and click around. Marle was wonderful and he is a huge fan of our show.

Yesterday, we taped a TV interview for GAY USA TV with Andy Humm and Ann Northrup. It will broadcast locally, but it also broadcasts on the DISH Network and will be playing all week. There is also a podcast. So, check out the links and either catch us on the tube or listen to us on the podcast. We had a great time with Andy and Ann.

We also did an interview for Backstage magazine for the "Self Starters" column. I'll have photos and video of all these events soon. I just have to get my computer situation resituated. Losing my main computer was a blow, but there are always back-up opportunities.

And, just to be clear, I'm gettin' over this whole stolen laptop thing. I want it back SO BADLY, but I'm finally starting to just let it go. There are things in life we can control and things in life that we cannot control. Worse things have happened to much better people, as the saying goes. I cannot complain. Right now, Jimmy and I are fulfilling a dream come true. We're living an incredible fantasy that so many people would love to be living for us.

A laptop is just a "thing." It can be replaced, eventually. No one got hurt. The show went on. Steve is feeling a little bruised and a little sad over the lost video and pictures, but Steve will get over it. We have today off, so we're going to take it easy. My voice is back to full strength. My health is good. And Christmas is upon us.

Again, thank you for all the kind words and condolences.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Laptop Was Stolen

I'm totally heartsick. Last night was one of the best shows we ever did. The audience was ROARING. The applause was THUNDEROUS. Everything was going SO well. Got back into the dressing room and it looked untouched except for one little thing:

My laptop was gone. As was its case.

I had just finished editing a BEAUTIFUL video of an interview and dance session we had with Marge Champion and Donald Saddler. Took me days to get it just right. And it's gone.

I looked at Jim and said, "Did we have someone take the laptop out for security or something?"

He got this panic in his voice. "NO!"

Then he ran over to his part of the table. His wallet was there. The money was gone (not much), but his credit cards were still there. His jewelry was still there. (I always have my wallet in my pocket, even on stage).

We searched the room. They also left our video camera, but that was tucked away in my coat pocket out of the way. Clearly, the thief got in, saw the laptop, figured it was enough and then skedaddled away.

Then, of course, I had to go onstage for Act Two. After all, we had a houseful of people. I could barely get through it. My head was swimming. All I could think of was that this guy would hacking into my email, changing everything, etc.

After the show, I ran to the box office and logged into my email accounts and tried to get to every possible place where I use passwords. Nothing was touched. I changed them all and sighed a big relief. But still... This laptop was brand new. I had gotten it just for New York because my old one was four years old and falling apart and I knew I had a lot of work I needed and wanted to do here in New York.

Luckily, most of my stuff was backed onto a portable hard drive, but I've lose the most recent videos and photographs, including the one of Marge and Donald, which is irreplaceable.

I honestly don't know how I got through Act Two. I was in a daze the whole time.

So, if someone reading this buys an laptop on the black market, a Toshiba with links to this page, you're probably reading this entry now. Can I please have it back? Pretty please?

Monday, December 18, 2006

NY Big Voice Video Diary #11

A rare and wonderful visit to the artist studio of the late Al Hirschfeld, the brilliant caricaturist for New York theatre for most of the 20th Century. His widow, Louise, takes us on the tour. Jim, who has idolized Al his entire life, is overcome with emotion, as you will see.



TAGS:

Learning new things

Last week, we went to a memorial service for the great Barnard Hughes, one of the finest stage actors of our time. They had invitations for most, and then a line outside for others who could get in if you didn't have an invite. So Jim, wanting badly to go to this, folded an envelope in half and showed it to them, pretending it was an invitation and got us right in.

During the service, which was moving and beautiful, one of the participants mentioned that Barney Hughes believed it was his responsibility to stick with a hit show through to the end out of duty to the produces and the fans, and even to tour with it once it closed in New York. So, one of the actors asked him, "How can you do thousands of performances of the same play and not lose your freshness?"

His response was, "Because there's always a chance to make it better."

I kind of felt that way this past weekend. During the Saturday show, I felt a tiny pinprick of pain in my throat during the show. So, I knew Sunday was going to be difficult. I had to be very careful about singing too hard.

The thing is that our sound system is really good. David Gotwald, our sound designer, is also doing "The Producers" on Broadway. He really knows his stuff. But on stage, I don't have a vocal monitor. So, my voice is not being projected back to me. And because we are using a very subtle sound in the room, I also don't hear my voice coming back to me in the room. So, the only sound I actually hear is what is coming directly from my mouth. It's deceptive because it gives me the illusion that I'm not in the house system at all.

Now, because of that, I've been pushing my voice more and more, trying to "project" it to the back wall. It's an absolutely normal psychological tendency. When one is performing, you want to get that feeling of "power." Of overwhelming the room.

So, on Sunday, I told Johnny A., our stage manager who is controlling the sound, "Look, I'm just going to sing normally, as if I'm in my studio up close to the mic with headphones on. Though I can hear my pitch, I have no idea if I'm in the room or not and I'm going to trust you that it's getting out there."

This was not just for singing, but also for the acting part. I just totally relaxed and spoke in a normal, and even sub-normal, tone of voice. It was REALLY weird. It felt like I was talking to myself, barely making it to the front row. But I knew I had to protect my voice. It felt like I was out on a tight wire alone.

Well, maybe we just had good audiences, or maybe just being that quiet did something to my performance, but the crowd reaction on Sunday was so utterly explosive, so astonishingly over the top, it was almost startling. The laughs were landing like nuclear explosions. The applause was extended. And during the more emotional moments of the show, maybe because I was so relaxed, everything felt more connected.

And I thought of Barney Hughes. We've done this show hundreds and hundreds of times. But on Sunday, it felt completely brand new, as if I'd never done them before. I felt like a totally different actor, and because I was forced to just be QUIET, it was as if I had discovered a completely new performance in me, a lesson learned that I can now take and work on and play with. I can't wait to get back on the stage with a good voice but keep that same tone and level of honesty.

Man, this is really fun.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

NY Big Voice Video Diary #9

In the 9th NY Big Voice Diary, we learn more about the Actor's Temple, Steve is appointed Equity Deputy, and Jim tells us about the Neil Simon Theatre.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Men Event

Got a very nice review in one of the online gay magazines:
Calling all Ethel Merman fans (Judy fans give a listen)! Soooo, I saw this fabulous new gay musical, The Big Voice: God or Merman?! In it, we meet two guys named Jim and Steve who musicalize their relationship and hilariously prove that showbiz is as much a calling as the priesthood. This razzle-dazzle show chronicles the lives of a Baptist from Arkansas and a Catholic from Brooklyn who meet in the Bermuda triangle, fall in love, and find eternal salvation in the temple of musical theatre. I have to tell you, I was moved to tears by the show and am shouting with my big voice, The Big Voice: God or Merman? , is a must see!

Max & Donna Visit Big Voice

Steve Schalchlin, Donna McKechnie, Maxwell Caulfield, Jim Brochu at THE BIG VOICE: GOD OR MERMAN?Thursday night, we had a couple of celebs in the audience. Maxwell Caulfield (who is, really, the nicest human being on the planet) and Donna McKechnie (who was in the original production of "A Chorus Line" on Broadway and who has a new book out right now).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Busy Boys

I haven't updated this much because we've been running around like crazy trying to promote the shows, going to parties (with fliers in hand), and all that good stuff. But we have some terrific videos which I'll be editing over the next few days, including our visit to Al Hirschfeld's drawing studio, which was a particularly exciting thing for Jim.

We also went to a Dramatists Guild Holiday Party where we met Terence McNally who's coming to the show on Saturday! To a memorial service for Barnard Hughes where we had a long chat with the great stage actress Marian Seldes. Then we sat down to dinner the other night next to another great actress, Patricia Neal, where we told her we were going to tell everyone we had dinner with her. She was so great. She stuck out her hand and said, "Then we should touch!"

Yesterday, we went to a dance rehearsal with Marge Champion and Donald Saddler. Octogenarians, they are amazing as they dance together. Both have had legendary careers on the stage and on film.

And, of course, I ALWAYS have a pocket full of fliers!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Joey Reynolds Show Tues. Night

Last night, Jim and I were on the Joey Reynolds Show. WOR Radio 710 New York, from Midnight to 2am.

Here is an mp3 of the radiocast:



Listen here!

Christine Ebersole sings "Around The World"

A few days ago, we were invited to an awards ceremony for the ASCAP Foundation where they give out cash prizes and special recognition to new and upcoming writers and composers. Most of the awards went to teenagers or students who showed a great deal of promise. Marvin Hamlisch was given a special lifetime achievement award.

One of the nicest things that happened was that when we arrived, we were greeted by almost everyone with, "Hey! We saw your NY Times review!" Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Stephen Schartz, Marvin Hamlisch. It seemed like everyone in the world had seen that review and were giving us lots and lots of support and kudos. I still don't feel like a star, mind you. But I do feel like people who matter in this business are beginning to know who I am. And that's a good thing for our little show.

I had to leave a little early, before all the ceremonies were done because I needed to lie down and nap before our evening performance, but just before I did, they gave an award to Scott Frankel and Michael Korie for their incredible new musical, "Grey Gardens." If you haven't seen the documentary of Grey Gardens, about "Little Edie" and her mother, relatives of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, go NOW and get it. You'll never forget it. They are two women who are more or less trapped with each other in this big ratty house. Edie walks around wearing a shirt over her hair like it's long hair. Cats are running all over the place. It's pretty much indescribable. Just rent it. The fact that they made a musical about it is even more extraordinary.

Then, as a surprise guest, Christine Ebersole, the star of "Grey Gardens," came out and sang. Even out of costume at a big event, I was completely and totally mesmerized. By the song. By the performance. If you appreciate great acting and singing -- and if you've ever seen "Grey Gardens," the docmentary, you'll see that Christine caught this character, syllable by syllable. I was completely transfixed. I also had my video camera on. Just watch. I hope posting this is okay. If not, someone will tell me and I'll take it down. But for now, a gift to you:



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Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Link for Big Voice Video Diaries

I've created a new permanent link where all the Big Voice video diaries are organized. You can find them all at http://thebigvoice.com/video.html.

NY Big Voice Video Diary #8

Riding to the show on the bus, we run into Broadway star, John McMartin. Then the Jasons show up and we have dinner at Sardi's where we tell stories.

"Instant Hit"?

Score another great review for us! (Yay!) From BroadwayWorld.com. It's really and truly beyond thrilling to watch these reviews pour in like this. It's beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations. It's also very humbling. Every night we know we have to keep up our concentration and give a great performance because now people come EXPECTING a great show!

Here are a few quotes. From Amanda Scarpone.

The Big Voice: God of Merman encapsulates why we love theater. It’s a show that somehow manages to bring a smile to the face, a tear to the eye and laughter all the way through.

In addition to the script the score, encompasses many fun-loving and heart-wrenching tunes which add another dimension to the already endearing storyline. Brochu and Schalchlin do a fantastic job when it comes to supplying the melody and harmony – out of no where your ears are delighted by the fullness of the music and you are surprised that such volume and sound are simply coming from two men and a keyboard. It’s a score including just the right mix of soul-exposing solos with fun, upbeat and light-hearted Broadway tunes; it’s easy to envision the CD sitting in your car for that long road trip you’re planning to make by yourself so you can sing along.

Somehow, a play that revolves around religion and gay relationships never gives even the staunchest conservative reason to complain – it’s a true story of perseverance and achieving dreams without ever taking itself too seriously. The Big Voice: God or Merman is a smart, funny and touching performance – one that makes Broadway happy to welcome Brochu and Schalchlin back with open arms.

And, once again, not a single negative note. Amazing. Just amazing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

NY Big Voice Video Diary #7 (Reading the NY Times Review)

Last Friday, Jim and I stayed up till 1:30 AM to see if the NY Times review would appear online. Suddenly, about 1, the capsule review appeared. I turned on the camera and told Jim that we would tape the reading of the review, good or bad. No matter what it said. Little did we know...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thinking About Reviews

A few friends of mine who don't really know all that much about show biz were asking me questions about what the reviews mean. They just wanted a little perspective.

So, to clarify, the Gold Standard, the one review in the WORLD that you must have in order to succeed, especially if you don't really have a "pre-sold" show such as a Disney musical or if you don't have much money for advertising or publicity, is the New York Times review. It's the pinnacle.

When they write their reviews, they are usually very "stingy" with words of praise -- and they always -- ALWAYS -- point out what's wrong with your play or musical. Even if they say something positive, they will usually find a qualifier to match it, a big "but..."

Also, they usually, as one of the producers explained to me yesterday, find ways to say positive things to make it difficult to get a really good "pull-quote." They are very aware of the position as the "last word" in the arts, so all this is understandable. If they endorse something, then they are usually very careful to make sure that their name is not diluted or watered down by too much praise.

That's why our NY Times review was so astounding. It was FULL of pull-quotes and there were NO qualifiers. None. Not a single negative note.

Then it happened again with the Variety review. And it happened again with the Village Voice review.

Do you know how small our show is? The other big NY newspapers declined to even send a critic. That comes from being nobodies from nowhere playing in a new theatre no one ever heard of. After all, it's crowded marketplace. A lot of shows opened the same week we did.

And, as I said before, our show was financed by friends and family who believed in us. No big producers. Nobody writing huge checks. No underwriters. The entire production is a labor of love.

So, credit has to go to Keith Sherman, the publicist, who managed to get the Times in. From here, our marketing team of Eliran Murphy, also one of the best in town who chose to work with us because they believed in the material and were "heart-drawn" to it, now has something to work with.

Again, these reviews were everything to a little show like ours. They would either make us or break us. And the other thing we have going for us is the word of mouth coming out of the back of the theatre. The audiences LOVE the show. So, while nothing is assured and nothing is guaranteed, with a little more media exposure -- if theatre goers SEE the reviews and if the word of mouth kicks in -- we could settle in for a nice, long run.

Wouldn't that be a beautiful holiday gift?

The Village Voice Raves

Another rave review today! The Village Voice.
Partners in life as well as in stage and song, Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin have made fantastic theater out of the drama of their lives with the autobiographical musical The Big Voice: God or Merman?

Opening Night Video Diary (NY Vlog #6)

Monday, December 04, 2006

On the move again...

Today, Jim and I moved again to another apartment. This time down on 43rd street. We'll be here for a week. Then we move again! Our Internet is limited, so if you write me an email, I might not be able to respond right away. We do have a great view of the Battery and the Statue of Liberty, though.

I'm also editing the opening night video diary, so stay tuned!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Times Review of a Lifetime

We stayed up till 1:oo am to get it, but here it is:

The NY Times review.

THEATER REVIEW | 'THE BIG VOICE: GOD OR MERMAN?'

A Musical Attempt to Share Some Secrets of True Love

“How do you do it?” jealous single people often ask happily married couples. The contented partners, in late middle age, usually smile at each other as they spout truisms, but the secret of their success remains nearly as impossible as a solution to the PoincarĂ© conjecture.

Steve Schalchlin and Jim Brochu nonetheless try to share some of the magic in “The Big Voice: God or Merman?,” a chronicle of their own love story, which they wrote and are now performing as a hilarious and utterly enthralling evening of musical theater.

One of the men, as a Roman Catholic boy in Brooklyn, yearned to be pope, but changed his mind when the LP he bought of Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun” had more heat than Pope Pius XII performing a Gregorian chant. The other, a Baptist adolescent in Arkansas, longed to be an evangelist until he fell in love with music, and his mother told him to write a song. Both endure homophobia, come out and end up in show business and on the same cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle, where their life together begins in 1985.

Think of two gifted and smart gay men with years of theater stories deploying their considerable talents from the two pianos you happen to have in your living room. Any question you could ask, they answer with a sidesplitting story or a telling anecdote. As these men onstage evoke Arkansas, a cruise ship or Sardi’s, you crack up at their deft mimicry and marvel at the romantic sweep of their songs, emotion catching your throat as you see them navigate AIDS and success, breakup and reconciliation.

Our contemporary embrace of the memoir is a longing for the true adventures of life. The trick is to make memory art without losing the awkwardness that proves authenticity. Here art is achieved with light hands, and the result is a triumphant and very touching song of praise to everyday love and the funky glories of the show business life.

“The Big Voice: God or Merman?” continues at Actors Temple Theater, 339 West 47th Street, Clinton; (212) 239-6200.

NY Big Voice Video Diary #3

Jim and Steve go sign Steve up to Actors' Equity. Then look for Big Voice at the TKTS booth. Two days before opening.

Opening Night Photos

Our first visitor of the night was Bob Stillman, who came over from "Grey Gardens," the huge Broadway hit. Bob was the star of the Off-Broadway production of "The Last Session." He brought us a card that said, "It's Big as Broadway and Twice as Gay!"

Here's a little family portrait of me, John Atherlay our stage manager, Jim and, in front, Ed Gaynes, Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel, our producers.

Our dressing room was filled with flowers and cards from well-wishers.





Jana Llynn, our production manager, brought us stuffed cats called "Ethel" and "Judy." Jim got Ethel the orange one. I got Judy the gray one.

Afterwards, we had an opening night party at Sardi's. Below is actor Christian Campbell and his dad with me.

Director Anthony Barnao with an actor whose name I forgot (but who was very nice) along with the Campbells.

Here I am with Rick McKay, the filmmaker who made the incredible movie, "Broadway: The Golden Years."
Jim and me with Christian.

I'm here with local TV host, Barry Z.

And here we are with Jim's caricature right next to Ethel's.

Theatremania Raves.

The online theatre site, Theatremania, also gives us a rave.
Alternately hilarious and deeply moving, it should not be missed.

Variety Raves About Big Voice

Our first review is in. It's from the "industry bible," Variety. And the review is a rave.
"The Big Voice" is unconventional and perhaps unlikely, but this story of a mismatched couple, musical comedy-style, is funny, touching and warmly endearing.