BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
If my life was a game show, I'd be in the Bonus Round. I almost died. Didn't die and now... The Bonus Round, where time speeds up and the prizes are better. For my 60th birthday year, I recorded an album, I'm doing some concerts around New York City and I even composed a concert Mass which debuted on June 7. 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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Zero Hour reviews so far.

The New York Times was marvelous:

“Singularly captivating. Zero Hour is a success. Brochu is the spitting image of the bearish Mostel, down to the strands of hair barely covering his head. His wildly expressive gestures are particularly spot on. It brings Mostel back to life, just the way his fans want him.”

http://theater.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/theater/reviews/30zero.html?ref=theater

The Associated Press was wonderful:

“Very funny. Brochu's living restoration has brought Mostel's larger-than-life

personality back into the spotlight for a laugh-filled, much-welcomed presentation.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20091124/us-theater-review-zero-hour/

The New Yorker was a Rave:

“It all flows and provides plenty of big laughs as well as hushed drama. After a while, you stop caring whether a particular line is Brochu’s or Mostel’s; all you know is that you’ve been privy to the work of a great comedian.”

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/events/theatre/2009/12/07/091207goth_GOAT_theatre?currentPage=2

Variety was terrific:

“Frequently funny and always engaging, Brochu evokes the kind of prickle

on the back of the neck usually delivered by David Lynch movies.”

http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117941652.html?categoryid=33&cs=1

Theatermania was amazing:

“Brochu’s performance is tantamount to a reincarnation. From head to toe, he's got it right. Often belly-laugh funny, there's a show-business saying that it takes a star to play a star. By that reckoning, mark down Jim Brochu as a truly big star.”

http://www.theatermania.com/off-broadway/reviews/11-2009/zero-hour_22988.html

NY Theatre Scene was sensational:

“Brochu not only takes on Mostel's story, but he literally climbs into his skin with tufts of white hair, fierce eyes, and Mostel’s huge bulk. But it is the portrayal, not just the surface attributes, which is so convincing.”

http://nytheaterscene.com/RevEZeroHour.html

Backstage gave it a Critics Pick:

“Never less than engrossing, Brochu not only creates an astonishing physical resemblance, capturing Mostel's distinctive body language and vocal patterns; he goes deep under the skin to reveal the man's complicated psyche and conflicted soul.”

http://www.backstage.com/bso/reviews-ny-theatre-off-broadway/zero-hour-1004045006.story

The Wolf Entertainment Guide was over the top:

“Electrifying! The amazing performance hold’s one’s attention and engenders appreciation both for what Brochu has accomplished and for the special character and talented performer that Mostel was.”

http://www.wolfentertainmentguide.com/ViewPage.aspx?cat=theater

The Examiner was off the charts:

“Zero Hour is not to be missed. This production is a triumph of writing and performance and I can't decide which is more brilliant. If you are a fan of the theater, of great performance, masterful writing and top notch direction, Zero Hour is a must see for this theater season.”

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-16475-Manhattan-Theater-Examiner~y2009m11d24-Zero-Hour-is-not-to-be-missed

A Rave from BroadwayWorld:

“The scenario allows us to see Mostel as the public remembers him; an outrageously larger than life figure who is continually performing and will do anything for a laugh. It is brilliant, defiant and highly entertaining.”

http://losangeles.broadwayworld.com/blogs/viewblog.cfm?blogid=2601

Soundoff.Com Reviews gave us FOUR STARS:

If heavy burdens are all Mostel had in his closet, Brochu certainly wears them well. His shortness of breath, the flashes of anger in the eyes, the need to grab his despair by the shoulders and shake until he comes to his senses, all these come to life in Brochu’s veins. Through writing that is colorful, witty, well-paced, and organic, and acting that is masterfully precise - in Brochu’s capable hands, Mostel is a work of art.

http://web.me.com/writa1/tvsoundoff/Broadway/Entries/2009/11/27_Give_this_Zero_a_Four_%28star_review%29.html

The Curtain Up review:

“Zero Hour is an informed, absorbing, highly entertaining one-person play written by and also starring Jim Brochu who stops just short of bringing Mostel back to life.”

http://www.curtainup.com/zerohour.html

Upstage-Downstage Theatre Reviews Says:

“Let me be unambiguous: Zero Hour is the best one-person play since I Am My Own Wife. It is as rich and compelling a story as you will see on or off Broadway right now.”

http://upstage-downstage.blogspot.com/2009/11/danny-kaye-zero-mostel-together-again.html

The Third New York Guide wrote:

“Zero Hour is one of those absolutely striking one-man shows, this time about Zero Mostel. Brochu is amazing, nothing short of sensational as Mostel. He captures Mostel's spirit, his explosive, larger than life anger, and his incredible, side-splitting sense of humor.”

http://thethirdnewyork.blogspot.com/2009/11/zero-hour.html

The Opening Night Party was Covered at Broadway Gossip:

http://www.timessquaregossip.com/2009/11/broadways-zero-hour-bash-at-sardis.html

And on Playbill:

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/134823-PHOTO-CALL-Zero-Hour-Celebrates-Opening-Night

The Pre-Opening Article by Peter Filichia was very touching:

http://www.theatermania.com/peterfilichia/index.cfm?mode=viewEntry&id=0DA0952A-2219-54E7-B90076FF0805B34D

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Salon This Sunday Night. Jim & Steve Host!

SALON, an open mic founded and hosted by celebrated composer/musical director MARK JANAS, formerly situated in The Algonquin Hotel, will return during Thanksgiving weekend on SUNDAY, NOV. 29th, from 7 to 10:30pm in a brand-new, beautiful venue!

This is the first of PERIODIC Sunday nights at Etcetera for Salon which Mark hopes will eventually return to a weekly format. The next Salon, tentatively planned for December, will be announced shortly.

SPECIAL CO-HOSTS FOR NOV. 29TH: JIM BROCHU and STEVE SCHALCHLIN, creators of the hit Off-Broadway musicals THE LAST SESSION and THE BIG VOICE: GOD OR MERMAN".

OPTIONAL THEME: "WE GATHER TOGETHER!" - songs that celebrate the gathering of kindred spirits and other things we are grateful for. As always, any material, on or off theme, is welcome!

COVER: $10 (cash).

MINIMUM: $10.

DOORS OPEN AT 6:15PM.

PERFORMANCE SIGN-UP BEGINS AT 6:30PM.

ADDITIONAL INFO: markjanas@aol.com.

My Thanksgiving Songs.

One thing I'm thankful for is having Steinbeck with us. It makes all the difference in the world. For the past three weeks, Jim has been going non-stop. As playwright and actor, he has the last word. So, even if he's not directly supervising the production, the buck stops with him.

Merman called it "Taking The Veil."



So, call me Mother Superior. Or Charles Lowe. But the kid is in for the day.

It also means I have a chance to look over the video I've shot so far. The footage from the Blacklist panel alone is beyond priceless.

Meanwhile, "My Thanksgiving Prayer" from the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus:

Thankfulness.

Someone asked me what I'm thankful for this year. The only answer I could think of was a very unpoetic "everything."

So what are we doing this year for Thanksgiving? Well, we were invited, by friends, to a holiday meal, but the truth is that the only thing Jim wants, understandably, is to be allowed to do nothing.

For the past month, he has been working, literally, night and day. Whether it's been rehearsal or performance, or something promotional, like the Bock & Harnick night, he's been going and going and going. And doing this show, Zero Hour, is running a marathon every single night.

So, I told him he could just stay in bed and sleep. That I'd bring food up to him -- we're living on two levels, bedroom upstairs, living room and kitchen downstairs -- and he could just curl up with the cat and stay still.

It's been a fast and furious month for us. Our little show -- and it is a little show being done on a shoestring budget -- has attracted lovely reviews, a not inconsiderable feat in New York. It's even selling tickets! But it has a long way to go to begin attracting the kind of attention it needs to become a big commercial success, and that's just a fact.

Still, I am thankful for the producing team for putting their reputations on the line, and believing in Zero Hour. And I'm thankful for you, dear reader, for allowing me to post all the news as it comes along. I still have photos to process, video to edit and stories to tell.

But, first, I think I think I'm gonna curl up next to Steinbeck and Jim and join in on the mutual snoring. I hope you'll be having a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ZERO HOUR review: Wolf Entertainment Guide

Another great review, this time from the Wolf Entertainment Guide.

I went to see “Zero Hour” with some skepticism on hearing that it was a one-man show with the star performing as the late great actor Zero Mostel. Who possibly could manage to approximate the unique look, distinctive qualities and the larger-than-life demeanor of Mostel? Jim Brochu who wrote the play and stars in it is first seen with his back to the audience. When he turned around, the effect was electrifying. Yes, there stood Zero. And the minute he began to speak, the illusion continued. It turns out that Brochu has the character down pat, in the writing as well as in the make-up and performance.

...
the amazing performance hold’s one’s attention and engenders appreciation both for what Brochu has accomplished and for the special character and talented performer that Mostel was.

The Lively, Emotional Blacklist Panel.

Picture yourself in a big, wooden church house filled with people all gathered together to discuss the important issues of our day. Not advocacy, but illumination.

When the Zero Hour producing team decided to put together the panel discussion, Survivors of the Blacklist, as an adjunct to the run of Zero Hour here, I thought it was a good idea. What I could not prepare for was how it would feel to actually do it.

There we were, packed shoulder to shoulder in a big, historic, wooden church building.

We were looking a stage filled with living witnesses and survivors of a time when people gathered together in big wooden church buildings in order to talk about how to survive the depression over which they had little or no power.

And it's not unintentional that Jim plays this show without a mic. It's almost a depression-era production suited to the times. (And how interesting that this Orson Welles movie is coming out right now, another artist of the WPA).

For the event night, however, for all our old ears, we set up a PA system.

Dan Wackerman, of the Peccadillo Theatre Company, which is hosting Zero Hour, stepped to the mic and encouraged everyone to see Zero Hour. Then, he introduced Rep. Jerrold Nadler.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler began the proceedings by mentioning that he chairs, the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, and that his subcomittee is the descendant of HUAC. He warned that the forces that would blacklist are ever-present in congress and in the media.

This was followed by Jim doing a brief section of Zero Hour. Jim recreating, in a more compact form, Mostel's testimony in front of congress, with Bob Osborne (the TV film historian who introduces films on Turner Classic Movies) guesting as the interrogator.

Then, introduced the panel.

Right from the beginning, without prompting, one of the panelists insisted that the blacklist was, in part, another extension of the antisemitism expressed during the Holocaust, thus justifying Jim's inclusion of this issue, reflecting Zero's opinion, in Zero Hour -- something one of the reviewers pooh-pooh in his review of the show.

Another, actor Cliff Carpenter, 94 years old, barely able to hear, broke down sobbing, as he recalled the fear and how his, and so many of his friends', lives were destroyed.

Kate Lardner and Christopher Trumbo (children of writers Ring Lardner Jr. and Dalton Trumbo) remembered having to grow up in Mexico, and then in various cities across the country.

The panel recalled that most of the "unamerican activities" these creators were engaged in was mostly union organizing, and that few of them knew anything, or even cared, about communism itself. So much of the blacklist was about trying to kill off the Writers union, for instance.

Victor Navasky reminded the audience that it wasn't just the House Unamerican Activities Committee that spread the fear, but that there were little HUACs all over the country, in every state, and in cities, police formed Red Squads, hunting down wherever there might be a communist, and that families were chased from town to town.

Cartoonist and writer, Jules Feiffer said, "Everyone in the country had the benefit of the first amendment except us. We were not allowed freedom of speech."

Jean Rouverol, a writer, also in her 90s, said she and her husband, screenwriter Hugo Butler, were told to testify against each other, so they self-exiled themselves to Mexico. "We had small children at the time," she said in a very emotional moment, "we couldn't go to jail."

Lee Grant, whose career had just started, was blacklisted for 12 years. She insisted that her activism and opposition to the blacklist was never about communism, but about the freedom to speak. She said, "For me, it was never about communism. I didn't even know what communism was. I still don't. And it wasn't important to me. I was just exposed to these extraordinary people. I wanted to be a part of them. But the war that we fought, that Cliff and Jean feel so passionately about, that war has never stopped for me. It's the best group of people that I could find in the world to be with, and I wouldn't exchange it for anything."

Grant chose these people to associate with, and that got her blacklisted. In the play, Zero talks about how his friends would cross the street to not be seen with him.

So, for these people, none of it was about communism, per se. It was about the freedom to speak and to associate with whomever you wish. There was no intention to "violently overthrow the government," as was being claimed by Joe McCarthy. He and his followers would use tearful, passionate, angry speeches to intentionally stir up fear.

Zero says, with his usual comic twist, "Socialists weren't trying to overthrow America, but we thought the government could help out a little. And so did Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the greatest Jewish mind of the 20th century."

Joe Gilford, son of Jack Gilford and Madeline Lee (a fierce union leader who gave the committee scornful hell during her testimony), said he considered his parents patriots and heroes because they refused to name names. He considers the blacklist a witch hunt against comedy, because the jester in the court is the one who tells the truth.

A very dramatic moment happened when an audience member stood to defend her husband, saying that he only named names in order to work, and that he only gave them names that had already been named and that now his legacy would be left to "people like Victor Navasky."

This point was refuted by Jules Feiffer, who said her husband had named at least one new name. Lee Grant, praising the woman for having the courage to speak, said they all had the same chance, but that they refused to turn on their friends. What was clear was that war has collateral damage.

Bob Osborne handled the evening beautifully, asking pointed questions about the era, and taking questions from the audience.

And I was there with my handy camera, getting it all down. I will be uploading the entirety to YouTube, of course. But what a night. It was like hearing Zero Hour all over again, as every point made by Zero in the play came roaring back to flesh and blood life.

One point they continued to stress is that it can all so easily happen again. That they never presume it's over.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

AP Reviews Zero Hour in NY.

Jim Brochu recreates a funny, volatile Zero Mostel



By JENNIFER FARRAR
Associated Press
2009-11-25 06:20 AM


Comedian and actor Zero Mostel was a very funny and at times very angry man, known for his loyal friendship and volatile personality.

Actor Jim Brochu has created a very funny, at times very angry one-man play, "The Zero Hour," in which he captures the essence of Mostel while revisiting a dark period in American history.

Directed by three-time Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie, the humor-laden yet thoughtful production is now playing off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clement's.

Whether sitting at a table or hurling himself around a re-creation of Mostel's beloved watercolor-painting studio, Brochu gives an enthusiastic, unrestrained performance as the outsize, opinionated, triple Tony Award-winning actor.

He looks uncannily like Mostel, complete with weirdly forward-combed hair, bulging eyes and a wide range of expressive stares and wild gesticulation.

With wonderful comedic timing, Brochu covers highlights of Mostel's life by having his character give an often intense, occasionally true interview to an unseen, unheard newspaper reporter. Brochu repeats the question, then launches into his version of the answer.

The dialogue is peppered with well-timed jokes and near-constant humor. But Brochu also depicts Mostel's serious outrage at the U.S. House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee hearings in the early 1950s. The hearings resulted in blacklisting people, primarily in the performing arts, after they were named by others _ truthfully or not _ as having been communists.

Brochu's Mostel tells emotion-laden stories about friends whose careers and lives were ruined by the blacklist, which meant they couldn't get work. He bitterly discusses some individuals who ratted on friends and colleagues, caustically referring to the man who named him, along with more than a 150 other people, as "the Babe Ruth of stool pigeons."

In the play, Mostel characterizes the HUAC hearings as a government-sponsored attempt to eradicate the influence of Jewish artists, writers and directors on the general public. Mostel rhetorically asks the reporter, "Why were they targeting actors? Did they think we were giving acting secrets to the enemy?"

Although Brochu has said the play is a tribute to Mostel, he doesn't hesitate to show the darker side of his complex subject. While Mostel speaks lovingly to the reporter about his wife, Kate, he yells nonsense at her and slams down the phone whenever she telephones him during this interview.

He addresses the reporter's inquiry about him being difficult to work with by telling backstage stories about the films and plays he worked on, citing instances in which he was, in fact, difficult _ airily explaining how his repeated failures to "stick to the script" improved things. When the reporter yet again questions his version of history, Mostel demands incredulously, "You're asking an actor for the truth?"

Zero Mostel died suddenly at age 62 in 1977. Brochu's living restoration has brought Mostel's larger-than-life personality back into the spotlight for a laugh-filled, much-welcomed presentation.

"The Zero Hour" runs through Jan. 31.

Zero Hour reviewed in the Examiner.

Wonderful review by Valerie Smaldone.

Jim Brochu's writing is rich and colorful and during the one hour and forty minutes that he prowls the stage, we almost believe that Mr. Mostel has come back to life, or more likely that Jim Brochu is channeling the performer.

Simply put, Jim Brochu is brilliant, the show is brilliant, and the spot on direction by Piper Laurie is brilliant. If you are a fan of the theater, of great performance, masterful writing and top notch direction, Zero Hour is a must see for this theater season. And if you want to relive the artistry of Brooklyn born Zero Mostel, now is your opportunity to do it.

Jim Brochu -- The Stories Continue.

You might recall that Jim and Piper did a podcast with Joel Markowitz back when Zero Hour was playing in DC.

Part two of the podcast is now posted. Here is how Joel describes the interview:

When Jim Brochu was here with his solo show about the great Zero Mostel, he and his director Piper Laurie talked with Joel about creating Zero Hour.

There was more to the conversation which we’ve saved til now to celebrate Zero Hour’s opening Off-Broadway. So relax, and listen as Jim Brochu, surely one of the greatest storytellers ever, shares backstage stories about his encounters with Barbra Streisand, Katherine Hepburn, and the afternoons spent playing backgammon with Lucille Ball in the last year of her life which he later turned into a book “Lucy in the Afternoon”.

Joel had two stories he was dying to hear from Piper Laurie – how she began her flower diet, and her starring role in the movie “Carrie”, both of which she tells with great relish.

jimbrochu3

The interviews end on a high comic note as these two friends recall their worst moments on stage, and Piper shares her secret name.

Zero Hour plays through January 31st at St. Clement’s Theatre, 423 West 46th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues). For tickets, call 212 239-2969 or go to telecharge.com

Bialystock & Bloom!



At the Oscar Hammerstein Awards honoring Bock & Harnick, Jim poses with Jason Graae. Now, if that's not a great cast for The Producers, nothing is!
Posted by Picasa

Opening night for Zero Hour

I have so many photos and so much video, I don't even know where to begin. Last night, Jim sang for the Bock & Harnick Tribute for the York Theatre Company. The night before was opening night with a party at Sardi's. I uploaded the photos to my Facebook account, and will be cross posting them here soon.

But this is Jim's first day off in what seems like an eternity. I have a feeling he's going to be sleeping all day long.

Meanwhile, from Theatremania, comes this photo of Jim posing with original cast members of the legendary musical, FOLLIES.

Celebrating after the show at Sardi's were three members of the original Broadway cast of Follies: Victoria Mallory, Kurt Peterson, and Harvey Evans.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life Upon The Sacred Stage

An interesting blog entry about Zero Hour.

Reaching Across The Ocean for Caleb Rixon.

Way across in the ocean, in Australia, there is a young theater performer named Caleb Rixon, who was struck down physically. So, all the Austalian theatre stars are gathering together to do a benefit for him. Will Conyers, from Broadway At Bedtime radio show, asked me if they could sing "When You Care." Of course I said yes. Here is the press release.

MEDIA RELEASE

19 NOVEMBER 2009

A SECOND CHANCE – AUSTRALIA’S MUSICAL THEATRE STARS PERFORM

TO SUPPORT CALEB RIXON

Some of the biggest names in Australian Musical Theatre are banding together to perform at a Charity Concert to support Caleb Rixon.

Confirmed performers on the night include SHARON MILLERCHIP (Chicago), RHONDA BURCHMORE (Eurobeat), JAMES MILLAR (Company, Oklahoma), CHELSEA PLUMLEY (Sunset Boulevard), ALEX RATHGEBER (Les Miserable – West End) and many more - cast members from CHICAGO, WICKED, CATS, JERSEY BOYS and MAMMA MIA.

Caleb Rixon grew up in Geelong, graduated from WAAPA, had appeared in Altar Boyz and had just been cast in CHICAGO, when, on November 17th, at the age of just 23, Caleb suffered a Grade 5 Subarachnoid Haemhorrage (Stroke) due to a Dural Arteriovenous Malformation (DAVM- Cause of Stroke). What this indicates, is that he had the most severe grading, of a rare type of stroke, due to a tangle of arteries and veins that were weaving within the lining of his brain.

He had many complications after being in a coma, on life support and in a highly sedated state. Since then, Caleb has had to re-learn how to walk, talk, swallow, see and breathe again.
Ongoing treatments are often holistic in approach whilst he undergoes intensive rehabilitation. Caleb may require Major Surgery to help correct his paralyzed vocal cord, thus helping him achieve a more powerful speaking voice.

A Second Chance will be a night of celebrating Caleb’s amazing survival and resilient spirit and will help to raise funds for his continuing rehabilitation.


One night only - Chapel Off Chapel - Monday 7th December @ 7:30pm.

For bookings, call Chapel Off Chapel on 03 8290 7000 or via the web: http://sa2.seatadvisor.com/sabo/servlets/EventSearch?presenter=AUCOS&event=SECONDCH

All tickets just $49. All proceeds going to Caleb Rixon.

Media enquiries contact Neil Gooding Productions 0410 502110 or E: neil@goodingproductions.com

New York Reviews Begin to Flood In.

Links here are from BroadwayStars.com, which collates theatre stories.

[ Variety ] Reviewed by Sam Thielman

"Everything is less than zero," sang Elvis Costello in 1977, and if anyone would have wholeheartedly agreed, it was Zero Mostel. Jim Brochu paints a remarkably sympathetic portrait of the famously egomaniacal performer in his solo show Zero Hour, about the life and times of a guy who survived everything from the blacklist to a disagreement with an out-of-control bus and still managed to thrive. Writer-performer Brochu, who's been doing the show for years, nicely mimics Mostel's blustery style and tosses off an assortment of the actor's best Borscht-belt gags into the bargain.

[ BackStage ] Reviewed by Erik Haagensen

Jim Brochu not only creates an astonishing physical resemblance to Zero Mostel, capturing his distinctive body language and vocal patterns, Brochu goes deep under the skin to reveal the man's complicated psyche and conflicted soul.

[ TheatreMania ] Reviewed by David Finkle

Jim Brochu gives a remarkably accurate performance as actor Zero Mostel in this entertaining solo show.

[ CurtainUp ] Reviewed by Simon Saltzman

Zero Hour is an informed, absorbing, highly entertaining one-person play written by and also starring Jim Brochu. It happily serves not only as a showcase for the actor but also as a delectably insightful homage to the great comic/dramatic actor Zero Mostel.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Zero Hour in NY Vlog #2: Piper Arrives.

"Are You...?"

Last night, I was walking through the theatre district in front of a very popular show. Outside, they have barricades set up with guys standing behind them for crowd control, but it was early, so no one was in line yet.

As I passed by, one of them shouted, "Hey, Lawrence Olivier!"

I stopped dead in my tracks, looked over at them and said, "Is it safe?"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why Actors Go Insane.

Want to know why actors go insane?

Last night, the audience -- about 2/3 full -- was the quietest we've had since arriving in the city. They were watching Jim as if studying him for an exam. The usual funny lines got laughs, but they were subdued.

And, contrasted with the night before, where the house was rocking with laughter as if attending a vaudeville, it was about as disconcerting as it gets. This is why live theater can be so maddening.

As a performer on stage, you can't read the audience's mind. All you can do is feel them. Or try to.

Watching Jim, I could tell he began working just a little harder. All actors do it, especially at the beginning of a run where you don't quite know what to expect. Quiet audiences tend to bring up a little panic inside. Are they hating it? Are they bored? What if I push this line here? Or make a bigger gesture there? (Jim told me afterwards that about halfway through act one, he gave up and just decided to trust the material. He knows he should do this anyway, but he's also the playwright, so the wheels are turning inside his head all the time, reassessing what's there.)

Anyway, eventually he gave up trying to "entertain" and just played the show the way he knows to play the show. The audience response stayed relatively the same.

Until the end.

At the black-out, it was like a bomb was set off.

The audience literally exploded. Shouts and hurrahs! Curtain calls. BIGGER than the night before, where they seemed like they were on a thrill ride.

People stayed after the show and practically mobbed him with praise and picture taking.

Afterwards, when we talked about the night, he said, "I've never been so surprised in my whole life. Was this the same audience? They exploded!"

Yeah, they did. But that's what happens when people are so into something. They don't really want to break the trance with laughter. They're beyond it. They're involved. They studying it. They intensely connected.

And that's why actors (and singers and jugglers and magicians) go insane. Because audiences make us insane.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Touching Article by Peter Filichia

When Jim sat down to be interviewed by Peter Filichia, they both realized they were witnesses to a New York/Broadway scene that has long died. So, the article Peter wrote on Theatremania is just beautiful.

Upates on Video & The Production.

I have shot a lot of video here, and I promise to upload it, especially for our friends who love just hanging out with us on this amazing time here in the City.

But the problem with video is that when you whip the thing out, it changes everything. Suddenly everyone feels like they have to be on their best behavior and they start performing for the camera. In many ways, reality shows like The Real World, and especially The Real Housewives, where the wives in each city seem to be competing with each other for which can do the most outrageous things to each other in order to make good footage.

Whether it's upending a table and yelling, pulling at wigs or snidely commenting "behind their backs," it's all a big show. They're performing for us. I don't want that. I like it best when we're all just being ourselves.

Real life happens off-camera.

Still, I love having these home movies, and I love making them. There's another little snag, too. It's not just "us" anymore. Now we're around a professional production with Union rules. Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-Union. I'm just saying it's more difficult.

Anyway, I'm saying all that because people have been asking for more video. I promise it will come.

Missed: Frances Sternhagen, one of the great actresses of our day, came last night. I knew it in advance but didn't bring the camera. For some reason, it felt wrong to make this into a video event. This was her first time to see "Zero Hour," and we were anxious to know how she really felt because she worked with Zero on Ulysses in Nighttown, mentioned in the play, where a bunch of blacklisted actors, led by Burgess Meredith, put on a show for themselves.

I mean SHE WAS IN IT. She was THERE.

She told me a funny story before the show. Zero had a reputation for pulling tricks and stunts on people during the run of a show, to get them to break up. Brochu did this to me all through "Big Voice," you might recall.

She told me there was a scene in Ulysses where all the actors in the cast except Zero were sitting on chairs facing the audience. Zero stood before them with his back to the audience. He would do whatever it took to break them up, especially because the audience couldn't see a thing that he was doing.

Franny Sternhagen has a twinkle and glimmer in her eye that just never seems to die out. And she was so gracious. She said Jim really captured Zero perfectly, and she agreed to participate in an event we have coming up on December 9th at the Barnes & Noble across from Lincoln Center. Copies of the play, now published by Sam French -- they have just begun using "publishing on demand" to get their licensed plays out quicker, and be more flexible with changes -- will be available.

There hasn't been an official press release, so I don't want to say too much, but it should be fun. Several other guests who knew or worked with Zero will be telling stories and possibly even reading scenes from the play.

Speaking of fun, that discussion I wrote about a few days ago, the "Survivors of the Blacklist" panel discussion is getting some heat. The seats were snapped up in an instant. No matter how far away you get from it, there are still people around who were greatly hurt by the blacklist, and it's like an open wound. You start picking at the scabs and it all comes out.

Officially, Zero Hour opens Sunday night. But the audiences are finding us, and we've already had a couple of sold out houses. The reviews will hit next week.

Fun!

Nobody Leaves New York.

Last night, we were walking to the Theater at St. Clement's, where Jim is doing "Zero Hour," when I remembered that "Big Night Out" would be holding their monthly "sing" at the club where we'll be hosting the salon on Nov. 29th, a place called Etcetera Etcetera. Since I hadn't been there before, I thought I'd go upstairs and say "hi" to the host, Jennifer Wren, whom I met back in 2006 when we were doing Big Voice here.

She told me how much she loves singing "Nobody Leaves New York," which is a song I wrote with Amy Lynn Shapiro for the upcoming "Manhattan Clam Chowder." Then she said she'd love to have it in her key.

So we went over to the piano. She gave me a note, and I found her key, which is G. It was originally written in C. So she's up a major fifth. And I was so proud of myself. I'm usually TERRIBLE about transposing on the spot, but we made it all the way through with few mistakes. And she sounded fantastic. I mean, like, FANTASTIC.

So, I told her I needed to be over at Zero Hour since we are having critics in all week on the run-up to the official opening night this Sunday. But that I might be able to zip back over if she'd sing it again for an audience. And that's exactly what I did.

Just as Jim was going on for the second act -- and he was GREAT tonight, by the way. He KILLED the audience; they were with him every moment of the play -- I slipped out and ran over to her event just in time to jump on the piano. And, again, she was amazing singing this song.

But, while there, the young man waiting tables came up to me and said, "Hey, I know who you are. You're Steve of Steve and Jim. The Big Voice. I'm David. I helped you carry your keyboard out to your car when you sang in Long Beach for the Unitarian Universalist national convention."

Small world. I remembered him. He was asking us about making in the business. I told him getting to New York is half the battle, and how happy I was to see him. Then the waitress came up and asked if she could have the sheet music to "Nobody Leaves New York," and I said absolutely. Of course, now I have to transpose it on the score, but I was going to do that anyway.

I love New York. It's like we never left.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Musical Salon November 29

A little announcement from Mark Janas.

Hello Saloners,

I'm happy to announce that Salon will return on Sunday, November 29 (the Sunday at the end of Thanksgiving weekend) at Etcetera Etcetera, 352 West 44th Street (near the corner of 9th Ave. on the South side of the street) 7PM - 10:30PM. Doors open at 6:15 with sign up beginning at 6:30.

The venue is upstairs in the Restaurant and is lovely. It has a grand piano, lights, a sound system and someone to run them, and has a wonderful Italian menu at reasonable prices. A $10 cash cover will be be collected by an "Etceterette" at the door, and there will be a $10 minimum on food or drink. The prices here are more reasonable, so I'm guessing that even with the cover, most of you will be spending the same or less than you did at the Algonquin.

The theme for the evening is "WE GATHER TOGETHER." Here's a chance to sing of things you are thankful for, and to celebrate the spirit of the Salon, or indeed, any gathering of kindred spirits. I know I have certainly missed our seeing each other, as so many of you have expressed over the past weeks. As always, the theme only a suggestion, and you may perform anything you would like.

Our wonderful co-hosts for the evening will be
the ever-entertaining Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin, creators of the hit Off-Broadway musicals "The Last Session" and "The Big Voice: God or Merman." Jim is in town performing his award-winning original one-man show, Zero Hour, about Zero Mostel, which opens this Sunday, Nov. 22nd, at The Theatre at St. Clements on West 46th St. at 7 PM. Steve is returning to us after a wild success with his choral/orchestral work "New World Waking" which had its World Premier at Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus featuring Jennifer Holliday as soloist.

Peter Napolitano will be sending a reminder and more information next week. Please mark Nov. 29th on your calendars and join us for what promises to be a very exciting new beginning.

Yours,

Mark
Some of the best singers in New York come to Mark's salon, a mix of rock, jazz, cabaret, Broadway, both traditional and current, but very street level. from kids just starting out to some of the most accomplished singers, whose careers are still just bubbling under, to well known singers from jazz and Broadway and the whole New York scene.

Binding it all together is Mark Janas' genius musicianship on the piano. He can literally play anything, from the most difficult classical pieces, to opera to every show tune imaginable. In any key. I feel like a mouse up next to him.

Plus, I get to sing my own damn songs! And I'm inviting others to sing along with me. Here is a link to My Thanksgiving Prayer. It's a pdf file you should be able to print right from your computer.

And we get to host! That means

Monday, November 16, 2009

The First Blog Reviews.

From Upstage - Downstage.

Let me be unambiguous: Zero Hour is the best one-person play since I Am My Own Wife. It is as rich and compelling a story as you will see on or off Broadway right now.

From The Third New York.

We saw a play on Saturday night, another one of those absolutely striking one-man shows, this time about Zero Mostel, the actor and comedian best known for playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and, of course, Max Bialystock in the movie the Producers. The play, written by an actor named Jim Brochu and also starring Brochu as Mostel, is amazing. For one thing, Brochu is nothing short of sensational as Mostel. He comes close to imitating him, but also does something much more important and moving: he captures Mostel's spirit, his explosive, larger than life anger, and his incredible, side-splitting sense of humor.

Jim Returns To Sardi's.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Food Line At Our Theatre

I was walking up to our theatre, which resides in the St. Clement's Church on 46th Street when I saw a huge line of people. Knowing it was way too early for tickets, I got closer and realized that this was the weekly event: The giving of bags of groceries to people who were in desperate need of food. As I got even closer, I saw that the food was being distributed by a group of young people, barely in high school age.

I love New York.





Friday, November 13, 2009

Busy Day.

This was a "hurry up and wait" day. It was also raining. Outside, the banner had been hung, so that people could now see that Zero Hour was HERE! It was so exciting to finally see it and to know we're here.

I know people who struggle their whole lives just to do this once, to have a show in New York. But for us, this is our third shot so, more than anything else, we feel lucky and thrilled and thankful. And especially with this show, which we believe to have so much important material.

The set was up by the time we got to the theater, but the stage is so gigantic that Jim decided to bring in the walls just a bit so that it would have a more intimate feeling. So we spent the day, mostly, sitting around letting the tech crew move everything in. Also, the big skylight, which will be more prominently featured in this production had to be moved. It hangs from the ceiling, and that took a couple of hours to redo.

Still, the important thing is to get it right. Today will be another tough day. First, we have to do the tech rehearsal which we couldn't do yesterday. And, then, tonight Jim will do a dress rehearsal for an invited audience.

You forget how much work goes into staging a show, even one as seemingly simple as this, with one set and one actor. You need a team of workers, busting their butts almost around the clock.

Then, tomorrow night, the first preview.

I have been taking lots of video, but no time to edit anything. Too much to do!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Survivors of the Blacklist hosted by ZERO HOUR

If you're in New York, you might want to attend this free event, but call quickly. Seats are going fast.

ZERO HOUR, Jim Brochu's award-winning play about the life of theatre legend Zero Mostel, will host "Survivors of the Blacklist: A Panel Discussion" on Tuesday evening, November 24th at 7 p.m. at Theatre at St. Clement's (423 West 46th Street). This very special event is free to the public (reservations strongly suggested).

Following a sneak peek of Zero Hour, performed by Jim Brochu, film historian and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne will moderate a discussion of the notorious Blacklist among a group of distinguished guests, many of whom were actually blacklisted in the 1950s. Scheduled to appear on the panel are Lee Grant (actor, director), Jules Feiffer (playwright, cartoonist), Victor Navasky (former editor of The Nation, author of Naming Names), Christopher Trumbo (playwright, son of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo), Joe Gilford (playwright, son of MAdeline Lee and Jack Gilford), Jean Rouverol (actor, author) and Cliff Carpenter (actor).

The Honorable Jerrold Nadler, US Congressman and senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, will introduce the panel. This historic gathering of those targeted by the blacklist, either directly or by relation, will address many of the issues taken up in Zero Hour, such as who was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and why. The discussion will also focus on the numerous parallels between the communist "witch hunts" of the 1950's and today's "war on terror."

ZERO HOUR will make its Off-Broadway premiere at Theatre at St. Clement's beginning Saturday, November 14th. Produced by Kurt Peterson and Edmund Gaynes in association with The Peccadillo Theater Company, the show will have its Opening Night on Sunday, November 22nd. The limited engagement is set to run through January 31st. Three-time Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie directs ZERO HOUR, which was originally produced in Los Angeles, where it received the Ovation Award for Best New Play.

Starring Jim Brochu as Zero Mostel, ZERO HOUR is set at Mostel's West 28th Street painting studio where a naïve reporter attempts to interview the famously volatile actor, prompting an explosion of memory, humor, outrage, and juicy backstage lore. It is July 1977 and the actor is giving his final interview before leaving for the pre-Broadway tryout of The Merchant in Philadelphia. Mostel only played one performance as Shylock before his sudden death at the age of 62.

ZERO HOUR traces Mostel's early days growing up on the Lower East Side as the son of Orthodox Jewish immigrant parents, through his rise as a stand-up comedian, from the Borscht Belt to Manhattan's most exclusive supper clubs, and from the devastation of the blacklist to his greatest Broadway triumphs, most notably as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and working through his love-hate relationship with Jerome Robbins. For more information about Zero Hour, visit www.zerohourshow.com

After Three Days, He Arose.

And... he's back.

It took three days, but he made it back. Probably because he saw me writing about him yesterday. But Jim finally coaxed him to the edge of his little lair with a bowl of food. But he poked his head out, ate, ducked back in, sneaked back out warily, ate a little more, and then went back in.

A few minutes later, I saw him on my side of the bed going for the cat box. And when he was out, I started tapping the bed, "Come on! Join us up here!"

He was suspicious, so he finished his business and ducked back in, but stuck his head out.

"Come on," I said. "Be with us!"

And, finally, he came out, and all 30 pounds of him jumped up on the bed and watched "So You Think You Can Dance" with us, criticizing the tall guy who, though cute, was just too heavy on stage (like he should meow), and he even went exploring a little around the room. Then, he spent the rest of the night sleeping on my feet, which is like sleeping under a sack of sand.

But he made it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, today we go down and look at the set, which they say is almost finished. We'll spend the day watching that get finished up, plus the focusing of the lights, followed by a tech rehearsal.

Friday will be more tech, and then a dress rehearsal tomorrow night. And the first preview will begin Saturday night.

It's hard to believe it's upon us already.

I hope New York is ready for the return of Zero.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Steinbeck is Freaked.


We brought Steinbeck to NY with us, but he has stayed hiding beneath the bed. Weirdly, he was cool for two days. But, then, a couple of days ago, he ran under under there and refuses to come out. We brought his cat box to the edge of the bed and he will run out to pee, but then he goes back.

And he doesn't seem to be totally freaked because we hear him purring, and he lets us scratch him on the chin if we reach under.

Jim finally got him to eat something out in the room, but then he ran back.

Poor baby.

Monday, November 09, 2009

New York: Day One

I walked from 95th and 5th all the down to Sardi's on 44th yesterday. Took me about an hour.

The sun was bright, the air was crispy cool, and the people were everywhere. It's one of the best times of the year to be in the City. Maybe it was out of fatigue, but I didn't bring my video camera along, and now I wish I had, but it doesn't matter.

I walked past all the museums on museum row, the Guggenheim, which still looks like a gigantic toilet bowl to me, crossed over into Central Park and into the Zoo. Just as I got to the giant clock, I heard bells, and saw all the animal statues overhead circling around.

And kids! Kids everywhere, smiling and laughing, and others being grumpy, while their parents tried to convince them this was fun.

Kept going south until I ran into a video shoot coming at me. It was Levi Johnston, surrounded by his famous entourage, but the focus was on him and a blond model. As the passed, I looked behind and saw that his coat was being held together by a line of orange clippies.

Got to Sardi's just in time to see Jim and meet the critic, Peter Filicia. He asked me, "What's the one thing you'd like to see in this article?" And I said, "That Zero is back and the world needs him and his righteous anger."

Ate a quick lunch, Ed Gaynes joined us for a sec and then we went to see the Danny Kaye show off-Broadway. The guy playing Danny was uncanny. This show has been running six months, and, as good as the performers were, it reminded me what a great book Zero has, and how much of a genius Jim is.

Then we sauntered over to St. Clement's where they were taking down a set. A girl in a Follies t-shirt came up to us and asked if we were parishioners. We told her we were the next show and she told us they were striking Brigadoon, that they have a local company which began back in 1924, started by some rich people, who hired someone to use their kids to put on Pinafore aboard their yacht with the audience sitting on the shore. (I love the '20s).

Then, they did it again and again, starting a theatre company which donated all the proceeds to charity. The company has done so ever since. Each company member donates their services and they put on a Gilbert and Sullivan show every year in the Spring and then a more Broadway type show in the Fall.

As we were leaving St. Clement's this tall, a good looking guy asked if we would hold the door for him, and it turned out to be one of the producers of Zero Hour, who runs the resident company there at the church.

We had a great conversation about Zero Hour and his company, the Peccadillo, learning that St. Clement's and the Cherry Lane are the two oldest off-Broadway houses in New York. He was very proud of their history, so I promised to do good video blogs about this.

By then, we were both hungry, so we zipped over to 46th and had matzo ball soup at the Polish Tea Room, and told the owner there that we were developing a new show based on his restaurant. He was very pleased.

By then, we were exhausted, so we stopped off at a subway station to get Metro cards, and then cabbed it back home. Steinbeck was happy to see us, and he showed his happiness by staying under the bed asleep.

I've had a little diarrhea the past few days, but it finally cleared up last night.

We flopped down on the bed and watched the season finale to "Mad Men," and then Jim went to sleep while I finished off the Dallas/Eagles game. Dallas won.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sights in New York Pt. 1

We made it to New York for "Zero Hour," which starts previews on Friday. Today I walked about 3 miles from where we're staying down to Sardi's to meet with Jim, who was doing a press interview.

So, I was crossing 59th Street when I saw an entourage coming my way. A camera man and assistants were walking backwards, shooting someone coming my way.

Then, I realized it was Levi Johnston, son-in-law of the execrable Sarah Palin.

He was being taped, walking with a blond girl (and me without my video camera!).

As we passed, I looked behind and saw that his coat was being held together with a series of orange clips that ran all up and down and his back.

I love show business.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Special Honor.

I felt very specially honored last night.

We had an attendance of eight at the workshop. It's a drop-in group that's a 20 dollar donation to Kulak's Woodshed.

Marc Platt announced it at the top. He sat on a stool near the piano and said, "Tonight we're gonna write a song about Steve leaving. We're gonna call it "Goodbye, For Now."

I must have scrunched up my face or something because he said, "Why? You don't think it's a good idea?"

"No," I responded. "It's fine. But you couldn't think of a better title?"

That made Neil laugh out loud because he loves getting one over on Marc.

Marc laughed, too, and tried to think of a comeback, but I think I got him. Or maybe he topped me. I doesn't matter. What matters is that there was an easy camaraderie.

In the workshop, coming up with a new song or song idea each week is part of the deal. And it can be about anything. You can write a song about an ashtray and make it work if you believe in it, as someone said.

Then, Marc got one of the newer guys, whose name I should remember but I don't, to play guitar.

He said to him, "You said you could come up with music. Play guitar. Play something. Make us a song."

He came up with a combination of G Am C G / G am C G / em A C G / em A C D.

Then, another guy I hadn't met but said he knew me, probably because I'm visible down at the Woodshed, came in with a guitar. He had long hair parted down the middle. Grizzled face. As if he'd walked in from the desert (completely possible in Los Angeles). Marc knew him.

He was slower at picking up on the chord combination, but he had a husky, cool voice. And when Marc said, "Okay, give us the opening line," people were fussing with "Don't want to say good bye," but it all felt done before. And then Desert Guy suggested ... I can't put it here. It's like giving away your trademark before you own it.

But I thought it was interesting that the one who came up with the winning hook was the one who knew me the least. That's probably a reflection on me.

Then, Marc put me on the piano and it was up to me to sing the song as we put it together.

Talk about surreal! I said, at one point, after having completely failed at adding anything of substance to the song, "I feel like I'm writing a love letter to myself." Now, my brother, Scott, the psychologist would insist that, for me, this would not be unfamiliar territory. Still, I just couldn't do it. After all, I don't know what it's like to live with me.

At the end of the night, we had a song. Or the first draft of a song, anyway. And it was a communal experience that felt really good for everyone involved. Naturally, the song is going to have to be a huge smash for any of us to make a buck on it, splitting the copyright 8 or 9 ways, but it was a great creative experience.

Speaking of creative, Ernie came over and helped me get rid of bags and bags of junk up here in my loft. I actually have floor space again!

Next week, we begin tech rehearsals for Zero Hour in New York. It's all happening so quickly.

I will, of course, give you the backstage story with my video camera. We have a superb team, going ahead. So, if you like this kind of thing, let me know. I enjoy doing it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Song Festival


It was like the old days.

Last night, at Kulak's Woodshed, I announced the forthcoming NoHo International Song Festival. Getting back together with Paul Zollo this past week has brought back a lot of memories of our days working National Academy of Songwriters. The Acoustic Underground series that we created and produced, along with Dan Kirkpatrick and Blythe Newlon, had a big impact on the music scene at the time because people competed to get into the program, and when you compete, you get better at what you do.

Some people hated that it was a competition with prizes, because, ultimately, we all know that art is subjective and what may seem like the "best" one year feels old the next.

What I have seen, however, in the year or so since I began volunteering on camera three, is growth and character and personality emerging from the scene down at the Woodshed. The thing is that Paul Kulak does his best keep the place going, impossibly difficult for a place that isn't, really, a business, but is a labor of love music hang-out.

But it's up to the songwriter community to really make it into something worthwhile. After all, the Woodshed is a place devoted to great music. Great songwriting.

So, remembering the lessons of the past, which culminated in an "Acoustic Artist of the Year," which birthed the great Dan Bern, among other wonderful artists, my feeling was that we needed an event which would bring together the best of the best, and encourage everyone to be on the best game.

Here is what I said:

Tonight we announce that in the Spring, Kulak's Woodshed presents the first NoHo Int'l Song Festival. From this point on we're, all of us, collectively, going to choose the best of the best songs that are coming through the Woodshed.

The goal of the festival is to put a media spotlight on our scene. But first, we have to create that scene, which we're doing and have done, and we have to name it and celebrate it.

Paul Kulak has been documenting the singers and songwriters that both come through here while on the road, and who are on the scene locally, now, for the past 10 years. And this year, we want to make it easier to find the best of the best, so we're putting on a song festival, hopefully in conjunction with the NoHo Arts Festival over on Lankershim in the Spring of 2010.

Many of you think I'm a nice person. But, no. I'm vicious and cutthroat (said with a smile). Every night that I come through that door, I have one goal, and that's to be the best songwriter in the room.

I hope is each of you also have this same goal. In fact, I only love one thing more: NOT being the best songwriter in the room. Because when I see excellence, it reminds me what excellence and greatness look like, and it inspires me to be that good. And If you're the one who beats me that week, look out. Cuz that means we're throwin' down. I'm going to come back the next week to make you up your game.

If you wonder why you haven't been noticed by the media before, it's because they don't give a shit about you and and you aren't news. Nobody cares about a lone singer/songwriter in this town. But a scene, a community that has character, that's a news story. That's something they will write about. Here are the two things you need to do:

1. Come in here every week, upping your game, writing the best songs of your life. Come to the open mics, work it, rehearse it. Be a part of this scene.

2. Listen to the other songwriters and identify for yourself the best songs FROM THEM you've heard every night. Then go up to that person and tell them how much you like that song. But notice each other.

See, songwriters are notorious for not being able to know what their best material is. So, you, me, we, collectively, the songwriters and volunteers of Kulak's Woodshed, have to know what the best is. We are all, together, going to make this festival work.

3. Join the social media groups we've started online at Facebook and ning.com. Start uploading your videos and mp3s, and then listening and interacting with each other.

And that's it. If you have any more questions, I don't have answers. You now know everything I know.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

"The Revolution Starts Right Here" -- Steve Singing.

At the song swap the other night at Kulak's Woodshed, I sang the song "The Revolution Starts Right Here." And here is the video of the performance: