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Showing posts from November, 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=theaterThe 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_theat…

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 re…

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, f…

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 an…

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.

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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 creatingZero 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.
The interviews end on a high comic note as these two frie…

Bialystock & Bloom!

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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!

Opening night for Zero Hour

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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.

Life Upon The Sacred Stage

Reaching Across The Ocean for Caleb Rixon.

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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 RELEASE19 NOVEMBER 2009A SECOND CHANCE – AUSTRALIA’S MUSICAL THEATRE STARS PERFORM TO SUPPORT CALEB RIXONSome 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 be…

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 HaagensenJim 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.[ TheatreMan…

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?"

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 …

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 &qu…

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 so…

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 gath…

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.

A Food Line At Our Theatre

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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.





Busy Day.

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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 anoth…

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 MAde…

After Three Days, He Arose.

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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…

Steinbeck is Freaked.

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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.

From Sheridan to Shylock

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…

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.

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 …

Song Festival

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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, rea…

"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: