Showing posts from December, 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 …

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.


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 nigh…

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 whic…

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 w…

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 …

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, …


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:


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 t…

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 …

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.


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,…

NY Big Voice Video Diary #10

Trying to get to Rosie, lunch with Josh, agent stories, Shubert Alley, the fight for the Morosco.

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.

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

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).

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 legendar…

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 ga…

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

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 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 keyboar…

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...

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 wor…

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)

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!

A Thoughtful Review in Curtain Up

A very thoughtful review of the show online at Curtain Up. There is a link there to the review they did of The Last Session back in 1997, another really well written and thought-provoking review.

NY Big Voice Video Diary #5

NY Big Voice Video Diary #4

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 By HONOR MOORE “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 t…

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."

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.