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.

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