Thursday, December 28, 2006

On The Other Hand...

Click on the image to see it in full size!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Quiet Tourists

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


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

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

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

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

Ah, New York. I jes' luvs ya.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day & The Missing Leg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

From The Mailbag...

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

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Rae Visits The Big Voice

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

Grey Gardens, the musical. My review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lighting & Sound Post A Thoughtful Rave For Us

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

NY Daily News Raves!

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

They chose Ethel, not regular

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

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

Joe Dziemianowicz

Thank you, Joe!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV, Radio & Some Reflections about the Theft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Laptop Was Stolen

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

My laptop was gone. As was its case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 18, 2006

NY Big Voice Video Diary #11

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


Learning new things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man, this is really fun.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

NY Big Voice Video Diary #9

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

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Men Event

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

Max & Donna Visit Big Voice

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Busy Boys

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Joey Reynolds Show Tues. Night

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

Here is an mp3 of the radiocast:

Listen here!

Christine Ebersole sings "Around The World"

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

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

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

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

, ,

Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Link for Big Voice Video Diaries

I've created a new permanent link where all the Big Voice video diaries are organized. You can find them all at

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 keyboard. It’s a score including just the right mix of soul-exposing solos with fun, upbeat and light-hearted Broadway tunes; it’s easy to envision the CD sitting in your car for that long road trip you’re planning to make by yourself so you can sing along.

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

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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

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

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thinking About Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn't that be a beautiful holiday gift?

The Village Voice Raves

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

Opening Night Video Diary (NY Vlog #6)

Monday, December 04, 2006

On the move again...

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

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

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Times Review of a Lifetime

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

The NY Times review.


A Musical Attempt to Share Some Secrets of True Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

NY Big Voice Video Diary #3

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

Opening Night Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theatremania Raves.

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

Variety Raves About Big Voice

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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Post on "All That Chat"

I saw this terrific show for the first time on Monday the 27th and I was deeply moved by both the story and the performance.

I have two younger friends, both in their early 20s, who have been together for about 2 months.
About 3 weeks ago one of the was diagnosed with cancer and as might be expected it has been a very difficult time for them.

I invited them to join me last night, Wednesday, for the show because I thought the message might be of some help to them at this particular time in their relationship.

I went to the theater early to pick up the tickets and ran into both Steve and Jim as they were going into the theater. I told them how much I had enjoyed the show and then told them about my two young friends who would be joining me later.

Steve and Jim said they very much wanted to meet my friends after the show and I agreed to ask them if that would be OK - it was.The performance seemed to be even stronger and the boys were deeply moved by it.

Afterwards we waited with a rather large group of well-wishers. I introduced my friends to Steve and Jim and they couldn't have been nicer or more caring. Damn, even now as I write this I am getting tears in my eyes --

So, bottom-line, thank you Steve and Jim for making a difference in the lives of two young people.



Someone In A Tree Likes Big Voice

The very sweet and sexy David Pasteelnik, who is a blogger here in New York, and who came to see The Big Voice last night, wrote an absolutely beautiful review of the show in his popular blog, Someone In A Tree. He came upon having read about the show at Joe.My.God. What he didn't know was... well, let him use his own words.

Back in 1997, in my nascent days of gayhood, I went to a new musical production called The Last Session. It was about a singer/songwriter, diagnosed with AIDS, who decides to bring together his fellow recording industry friends for a final session in a studio, after which he plans to commit suicide. I was enthralled by the show. The score was rock-infused while still containing a musical theater heart and soul. The story was funny and sad and inspiring.

Last night, I attended a preview performance of The Big Voice: God or Merman. Little did I know, until I read the bios of the creators/performers in the Playbill, that these were the very individuals responsible for that magical show. Not only that, but the story I was so mesmerized by in The Last Session was based very closely on the lives of these two gentlemen.

I'm sure you are now asking: So, David, did lightning strike twice? Was this new show as good as The Last Session?

The answer is no. It's better...

Feature in "Jewish Week"

An article called "Staging a Comeback" in Jewish Week describes how and why the Actors' Temple made the decision to become an Off-Broadway house.

When “THE BIG VOICE: God or Merman” opened at the Actors Temple Theatre Nov. 30, it wasn’t the only new show beginning a run there. For the third time in a decade, a new rabbi is on board hoping to revitalize the West 47th Street shul, also known as Congregation Ezrath Israel, and return it to its showbiz roots.

“Each person brings their own unique gifts to a situation,” said Rabbi Jill Hausman, 54, who was installed Nov. 10. “I am here to help people and do good work in the community. By doing things for others, the synagogue will be blessed. If I’m only here for selfish reasons, to say, ‘See how I built up the synagogue,’ it’s not going to succeed. It will only work if I build it up to do good works for others.”

The effect of her reaching out to the community could be seen at her installation, with clergy from neighborhood Christian churches, as well as from the Salvation Army, which operates a theater on the block, in attendance for the ceremony and the dinner for 80 that followed.


The first show is “THE BIG VOICE: God or Merman,” a musical about two men, one a Baptist, the other a Roman Catholic, on a spiritual search. It also deals in part with gay marriage. Rabbi Hausman said the temple, formerly Conservative but now unaffiliated, will not censor incoming shows.

“In the best of all possible worlds, it would be wonderful to have a Jewish show that’s spiritually uplifting, but since we don’t have a Jewish show that’s spiritually uplifting, we have a non-Jewish show about spiritual yearning,” Rabbi Hausman said. “We wouldn’t take a show that’s pornographic or inappropriate for the space, but we’re not presenting Walt Disney here either.”

Rabbi Hausman said the fact that the synagogue is no longer affiliated with any branch of Judaism gives her “tremendous carte blanche.”

“The synagogue has to live in the same society we live in,” she said. “It can’t live in the 1950s. Our society is pluralistic. My job is to accept everyone. God doesn’t shut anyone out. I want to emphasize the universal aspects of religion while using the particular to enrich worship and not exclude people.”

This inclusiveness appealed to the board, Kifferstein said, adding he expects Rabbi Hausman will provide strong pastoral counseling. “She’s extremely personable, and her energy is tremendous,” he said. “When you’re with her, you know she cares. She’s not just talking to someone while having other motives.”


Ezrath Israel, or helper of Israel, was founded in 1917 as the West Side Hebrew Relief Association. In its glory days as the Actors Temple it counted as members Al Jolson, Joe E. Lewis, Edward G. Robinson, Sophie Tucker, Jack Benny, Shelly Winters, Henny Youngman and Milton Berle.

Despite its celebrated history, Rabbi Hausman had never heard of the Actors’ Temple until she stumbled upon it several years ago while doing an Internet search. Now she wants to make sure when people discover this shul, it’s not by accident.

“That’s my job, to make sure it’s not a well-kept secret.”

The Last Preview

The tree at Rockefeller Center.

Just before we went into the theatre for our last preview, a gentleman stopped me just outside the door. "I wanted to tell you," he said, "how much I enjoyed your play. I saw it the other night and I'm back to see it again."

I was surprised. We haven't even opened yet, officially. We've done barely a week's worth of shows and already we're getting repeat customers?

I asked him his name.

"Bill," he responded. "I came back because I have two young friends. They've only been together for about four months, but one of them was just diagnosed with cancer and I thought they should see your show, that they would relate to what's up there on the stage."

I got a little catch in my throat. It just all felt very real, suddenly. It changed my whole performance last night, keeping these guys in mind. They said they would write me emails. I hope they do.
Our friend, Fran Bator, sent these flowers. (That's Murphy wearing them).

The day before, we went down to the Actors Equity Building and officially signed me "into the system," as the lady at the front desk put it. I am now an official professional actor. Look out, Shakespeare. You'll never be the same once I get ahold of you.

I was voted, by Jim and John Atherlay, our stage manager, as the Equity Deputy for this production. That means I can "write" Jim up anytime I want. All I know is he better stay in line. I think they do this to all the new actors as a rite of passage. ("Let's make the new guy do it!") Apparently, I'm going to be filling out forms or something, reporting on the show if anyone steps out of line or tries to change the dialogue, music or staging. That's right. Jim better stay on his toes.
My new cyberpal, David Pasteelnik.

We had two shows that day, trying to get all the critics in before opening night. Between shows, we went to Sardi's. Or, as Jim put it, "I've always dreamed of going to Sardi's between matinees." At the door, they greeted him as "Mr. Brochu" and asked him if he wanted to sit under his caricature. But, no, he likes sitting in the front section where all the stars were always seated back in the old days of Broadway when he was a young, eager seller of orange drink at the back of the St. James.

As we sat there, I was poking fun at him because he likes to peek through to curtains before the show to look at the house. But we don't really have a backstage area since the synagogue wasn't really built as a theatre. So, with me standing on one side of the theatre behind the purple swag, I'm actually in front of the black curtain. When I look across, I can see him pushing the curtain out. I kept telling him, "I'm gonna write you up!"

So, we did two shows on Tuesday. They went really well. The audience was responsive. Afterwards, I was so tired getting on the subway back to the apartment, I could barely stand.

When we got into the theatre on Wednesday for our final preview, there was a piece of paper on my table with a HUGE laundry list of "notes" from Anthony. I didn't even want to read it. I've been doing this show for 3 1/2 years. Notes?? I'd even been proud of myself for finding some new things -- making "Joey" more kid-like, being more dramatic in our fight scene, plus other little things.

Anthony's notes? Stop making Joey look retarded. Stop being so dramatic. Don't smile when you sing "How Do You Fall." On and on it went as he took out every single thing I thought I was doing so well. No way! I loved what I was doing! He changed a "cross" I made in one scene and told me to not do something else in another. Forget it! I'm gonna do the show my way.

I sat there almost fuming, reading the list over and over again. Then, when I went out on stage, I followed every single bit of direction he gave me to the letter. Took out all my "improvements." Stopped being "cute" in one scene. Stopped being "dramatic" in another. Stopped mugging in another.

And you know what really pissed me off? He was right. About everything. The audience last night was OVER THE TOP, laughing hysterically at every moment. Screaming and stopping the show at the biggest laughs. The songs got extended applause. And these were not our friends out there! We don't have that many friends in New York since we live in L.A. It was, Jim and I agreed, the best performance of the show we've ever done. So, I've decided to frame that list of directions and leave it up on my dressing room mirror.

Anthony came up to me afterwards and was so sweet. "You did it! You did everything!"

"Well, naturally," I told him. "I'm a professional actor!"

(And Jim rolls his eyes at me.) LOL

So, there ya go. Funny how it works when you put your ego in a box and just follow orders. That's why we have a director in the first place. To watch out front and make sure you don't make a fool of yourself.

After the show, I met the two guys Bill brought. I didn't pry into their lives or anything, but I did give them big hugs. My heart was breaking for them, but they had big smiles on their faces and I just hope the message in our show brought them some strength for the journey.

It was a perfect night outside, by the way. It was only a little cold. The air smelled clean -- and filled with that magnificently aromatic aroma of roasted chestnuts coming from cart vendors all along Times Square.

Steve in Times Square.

We crossed over and walked to Rockefeller Square to see the big, new Christmas tree in all its glory. And, yeah, it's beautiful.

I held Jimmy especially close. It felt so good to be here with him, just the two of us and a thousand other people circling the tree. There were so many lovers. New York at Christmas time really can't be matched. Everyone was smiling and laughing, taking photos of each other. Strangers were joking with other strangers. Out in front of the tree, we ran into that John guy from The Daily Show, the English reporter with the big nose, doing some kind of bit. Jim said something to him that made him laugh.

Tomorrow night is the official opening night, and the pressure is off. We can truly just relax and enjoy ourselves onstage. Afterwards, we go to Sardi's for an opening night get together. Very informal. Just friends and family. And whoever else shows up.

And then the reviews will begin to roll in. You know, this is where I take a big breath and just live in the moment. If nothing else happens, we have had this night, something very few people are privileged to experience.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The New York Slime

One of my favorite political satire magazines is the New York Slime. They're featuring us on their front page today!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NY Times: Off-Broadway & Nearer To God

Wonderful article today, "Off-Broadway and Nearer to God: It's Curtain Time At A Synagogue," in the NY Times about the Actors' Temple Theatre where we open on Thursday. (You may need to register to view the article, but it's free).

Impressive, those names in the sanctuary of the little synagogue on West 47th Street in Manhattan: Joe E. Lewis and Sophie Tucker on the stained-glass windows, Jack Benny on a plaque in the rear. The names tell you why, in its golden age, this synagogue became known as the Actors’ Temple. They also tell you something about when that golden age was.

Recently — say, oh, during the last half-century — this temple, with a declining membership and a vanishing budget, has not been doing so well. So starting with an official opening night tomorrow, the Actors’ Temple, for the first time in its 89-year history, will be moonlighting as an Off Broadway theater.

“Maybe we’re returning to our roots,” said Alan Kifferstein, president of the temple’s board.

Sort of.

The first show, “The Big Voice: God or Merman?,” is about a Roman Catholic from Brooklyn and a Baptist from Arkansas who find spiritual solace in musical theater and each other. Hey, you can’t always book a show like “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn” (and believe them, they tried).

Sounds like a good show!

Movin', Movin', Movin'.

We made the move to a new apartment yesterday. It's where we'll probably be staying permanently if (when?) the show is a success here. It belongs to a musical director who's out of town, so there's a piano and everything. The only drawback is that the bed is a double bed, which means our legs hang over the end about a foot or more and it's not wide enough for the two of us. So, last night in the middle of the night, I got up and moved to the couch. A bit of a pain, but that's okay. Some people in this world live in gutters, y'know?

We can stay here for a week. Then we move again to some unknown destination while a previously booked subletter moves in for a week. Then we move back again for the duration.

Last night's show was interesting. The audience began really quietly, but slowly and progressively became more and more responsive until, finally, they were on their feet. It's scary to have to coax an audience into submission, but when people are seeing you for the first time and they have no idea what to expect, they tend to study you before deciding that they feel safe enough to just give it over.

I have a few more pictures to show you, but can't get them uploaded for now. Critics start coming in today. We do a 3pm show and then an 8pm show. These days, critics attend previews, but hold off on publishing reviews until after the official opening. Don't know who's coming or anything, so we just have to go for it and hope they like what they see.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Editorial In The NY Blade

The New York Blade published by editorial called "Borat, Cowboys & Gay Marriage."

New York Vagabonds

Our Internet connection will be very spotty over the next few days as we're bouncing from apartment to apartment. We have a sublet that starts on Dec. 11th, but until then, we will be in transit a lot and not sure when or where we'll land or how to find a connection. So, if this blog goes silent for a day or two -- or if our emails don't get responded to -- that's the ONLY reason.

We had good response again on Sunday with several wonderful reviews on the posting boards at All That Chat from some of the regulars. So, that's really good. One mentioned how great the seating is in our theatre. And that's true. The seats are wide, spacious, padded and comfortable with lots of legroom!

Last night, as Mark Janas' artists' salon, we both sang to really amazing response. I thought they'd never stop applauding. And the singers in the room especially like the fact that I've written a score that features actual songs with beginnings, middles and endings rather than a sung-through score. It's still available as a free download at for anyone who wants to print it out and play it!

More later after we find a new place to stay today.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

First Previews

Our first official previews went very well, even as the crew figures out where the light switches are. All along the walls of the Actors' Temple are these lovely memorial stained glass window boxes. But, apparently, the light switches are complicated and there is one stage right overlooking the stage. Well, just as the house lights went down and the thunder and lightning hit (our sound effects), we started out onto what should have been the darkened stage and it was brightly lit. One of the window boxes was still on! It looked like daylight was pouring into the room onto the stage. So, it was a bit embarrassing to get into position in full view of the audience.

They were a quieter crowd than last night being and older group, but we could tell they were with us all the say. (In fact, later that evening, as we were walking up 8th Ave. to the night performance, a group of them stopped us. "We saw your show this afternoon!! We loved it!!!"). Very sweet people.

The night show went like gangbusters. The audience was laughing and applauding from the opening line. It was terrific! We love when that happens. Standing ovation. The whole nine yards. We had a few friends, too, but mostly it was people seeing it for the first time who knew nothing about it or us.

I have a few pics of me and friends. Joe.My.God with Jim:

Here's Rachel, the Executive Director of Youth Guardian Services:

Joel Markowitz, who has a theatre review blog and podcast.

Our old TLS pal, Marc:

Steve Ross, pianist and Cole Porter interpreter extraordinaire:

Ralph Lampkin, manager, publisher and record producer:

Our handsome stage manager, John Atherlay:

Managing Artistic Director Susan Claassen of the Invisible Theatre Company in Tucson, AZ with Steve Ross:

We also managed to catch a matinee this past Friday of a campy comedy called "My Deah" -- imagine a Southern potboiler Medea -- featuring our old pal, Maxwell Caulfield. He has taken to shaving his head and he looks GOOD. He and his wife, Juliet Mills, are going to come to our opening night.

Jan Buttram of the Abingdon Theatre, where we once did a staged reading of Big Voice:

We also caught Neil, who's still in the box office at the 47th Street Theatre. He remembers TLS and said it remains one of his favorite shows to ever play there:

Lastly, we did an interview with Jerry Tallmer. He was the first NY reporter to do a story for us when we did TLS 9 years ago. We still have his article for Playbill framed on our wall:

So, you see, it's busy busy busy! Two more shows today. One on Monday. Two on Tuesday. One on Wednesday and then we open on Thursday.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Playbill & Dress Rehearsal

We made the front page of again today. Yay! And last night we had our first preview. I can proudly say that I was absolutely relaxed and comfortable from the first moment. Even Jana, our production supervisor, who knows us inside and out said she had never seen me look more comfortable and relaxed on a stage before. We're still working out some spacing issues as we get used to where the lights are. A couple of times I found myself scooching one way or the other finding the hot spot for each position.

The funniest thing, though, was that, at one point, I heard some very strange, regular noise coming from the back of the room. I thought maybe some equipment malfunction or something. But it was kind of loud and it almost threw me off. After the show, I found out it was our director, Anthony, ASLEEP AND SNORING! LOL. Poor guy has been taking a long train in and out of the City. He's staying with family and, given the fact that we were doing the show at 10:30pm, he just was exhausted. Still, I'm never going to let him forget it. Our own director snoring through our show!

The audience, however, didn't. They were really responsive. Gave us an immediate standing ovation. And, honestly, standing ovations are not rare these days, so it's possible they were just being kind, but afterwards, we got lots of hugs and the buzz was wonderful. So, we'll see.

I also want to extend my appreciation to "Joe.My.God." Joe has one of the most popular blogs on the Internet and he has been helping us promote Big Voice. We invited his readers to the dress rehearsal last night and we met a couple he had with him. Two guys: One a former Catholic priest who's an Ethel Queen and the other? His Baptist boyfriend! They were GREAT GUYS. Warm and sweet. They said they felt like we were singing their story. So, thanks, Joe, for the plug.

As I might have said before, this production is being financed mostly by friends. The producers are friends. It's a tiny production with not a lot of money, so we're counting on word of mouth, mostly, for publicity. They told us a lot of the "big" producers didn't want to invest in a show featuring actors no one ever heard of and a subject no one could describe in five words or less. It's a special "sell," they told us, and were only interested if we could get big names in the leads.

But our producers, Paul and Murphy and Ed, really wanted the show to be exactly what it is: Jim and Steve telling their story. It's why we found the Actors' Temple, why we're doing it the way we're doing it. This is the show they wanted to produce. So, it's kind of a homemade production. Except, of course, for these brilliant designers who have invested their amazing talents to make it look like a million bucks. Everyone is pitching in and making it almost a "do it yourself" production. For Jim and me, to have people so dedicated to making our show come to life, I hope they know how much it means to us. I don't have the words to express how my heart is filled with love for them.

Trouble! Already, I've stirred up trouble trying to help promote the show. Over on the All That Chat message board, I posted a notice offering a free download of the entire score. Some guy responded sarcastically to it. I then posted again explaining how I had been one of the originals on All That Chat, and after singing "How Do You Fall Back In Love?" at Mark Janas' salon last week, several of the singers had asked for the sheet music, so I thought it might a good promotional device to offer it to everyone. He just said, "Spare me!" and responded again with a very nasty message -- totally ripping me to shreds.

So, it's an ugly world out there! But when you put yourself out there, you can expect to get blasted. It's cool, though. Everyone has a right to their opinion.

Today, we do a matinee and an evening performance. Then two more shows on Sunday. That night, we will head back down to the Village and both of us will sing for Mark's salon. It's a great evening. Every Sunday night at the Rouge Wine Bar downstairs at 99 Bank St. If you're in NY, join us!

UPDATE: I just saw another wonderful entry from a blogger named farmboyz. He wrote a beautiful review of the show.

Friday, November 24, 2006

NY Big Voice Video Diary #2

In this one we back up a few days and see part of the set being built and lights being focused. We also meet the plant manager and one of the Board members of the Actors' Temple talking about the history of the synagogue.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

First NY Big Voice Video Diary

This is the first video diary of The Big Voice: God or Merman? in New York! It's the day the Playbills arrive.

The Playbill Arrives!

It has happened again. And we got a really nice surprise. The word was out that Playbill was going to change the name of the programs for off-Broadway to "ON STAGE." In fact, our "proof" said just that on the cover. So, I was thrilled when the big box arrived at the theatre and Jim showed me what was there:

Here's David Gotwald, sound designer:

Clifton Taylor, light and sound designer:

Jim Brochu:
This being Thanksgiving, we are especially thankful for this wonderful production. It's hard, though, because as it gets more and more real, I get more and more hopeful. See, going into this, I tried to keep my expectations low. I thought, "Okay, we'll open. The critics might or might not like us. The ticket-buying public might or might not buy tickets. We'll run a few weeks and go home." I wasn't being negative, just trying to keep from emotionally investing myself into it too much. I didn't want to be disappointed.

But then I got here. And I saw all these workers scurrying around building our set and lighting grid. I saw designers putting their heart and soul into the production. I saw the beautiful set by Clifton. It's hard to describe what a miracle it feels like to have envisioned a simple "two guys on a stage" and to then see this BEAUTIFUL rendering -- and even more to see the beautiful set all finished. From the purple swag to the well crafted desk for Jim to the amazing white pillars holding up my keyboard.

And as I watched it all take shape, as we began rehearsing and realizing how professional all of this is, how amazing it sounds, I'm suddenly WANTING it to be a great success. My heart is filled to overflowing with HOPE and LOVE for this production. I'm taking it personally. I know I shouldn't. I know I should just let it happen and try to stay emotionally distant from it.


There's. Just. No. Way.

So, there. I've bared it all. I'm completely vulnerable. I need it to be a great success. I want it to run forever, whether we're doing the roles or not. Please let it work. Please?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

10 Out Of 12, Silent Jay & Bob

The beautiful stained glass window in the Actors' Temple.

Tuesday was what they call a "10 out of 12" day. It's a union designation for a day when you can make your cast work for 12 hours, but with two one-hour breaks for lunch and dinner. A "10 out of 12" is formal name, but everyone really just calls it "tech day."

On tech day, you do a lot of standing. You start at the beginning of the script and go through it line by line while the stage manager, director, sound designer, lighting designer and whoever else runs around adjusting things, working out each and every moment. I don't have a complete list of all our staff, but off the top of my head...

Set and lighting: Clifton Taylor

Stage manager: John Atherlay

Director: Anthony Barnao

Production Supervisor: Jana Llynn

Light Board Operator: Steve O'Shea

Sound Design: David Gotwald

I accidentally lost a bunch of the video and snapshots that I shot on the first day through a total screw up on my part. So, now I have to get back and take new video and pictures of everyone. That will be soon coming. I'll have more faces to match the names above.

There's a not a lot to describe except that we stand, say a few lines, stand some more, sing a little, stand, talk, stand, sing, stand, etc. It's tedious, but I'm having so much fun, I don't even notice. It's absolutely thrilling to be a part of this and to know it's actually happening.

On our dinner break, we rushed over to Sardi's for a special presentation to Jay Johnson & Bob. Liz Smith, the columnist was there and the event was the unveiling of their Sardi's caricature. The original "Bob" puppet is going into the Smithsonian.

Jim, Steve, Jay Johnson & Sardi's owner, Max Klimavicius