'Big Voice' is theater with big heart and funny tales
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.23.2007
Salvation can come in many forms: the Bible, J.D. Salinger, Bach, the Dalai Lama — you name it.
For Jim Brochu, it came in the form of belter Ethel Merman.
The story is told in hilarious detail in "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" now playing at Invisible Theatre.
This is theater with a big, big heart and funny, funny tales. Brochu and his partner, Steve Schalchlin, have made it easy to embrace this musical about growing up, falling in love with the theater and each other, and struggling to make their love deep and lasting.
Schalchlin is responsible for the often lovely, lively tunes and tender lyrics in the show, Brochu for the play.
But it is the two of them together who pour their hearts out and make the stories real and relatable.
The bio-play traces their very different boyhoods — Brochu grew up in Brooklyn, where he learned math from "The Price is Right" and optimism from "Queen for a Day." But mostly he dreamed of being the first Brooklyn-born pope.
Schalchlin grew up in Arkansas, the son of a Baptist minister. He longed to make music his life, and to step out of the closet with pride. Both would be hard for him.
The two met on a cruise — Schalchlin played the piano, Brochu flirted and fell in love.
And together they created and blossomed and went through painful times.
Schalchlin's songs capture the melancholy, the joy and the sorrows of relationships and growing up.
"How Do You Fall Back in Love?" is a tear-jerker of a duet with lyrics like "How do you reconnect what's disconnected / Unsay things you never meant."
And they detail the spiritual quests and questions the men go through. "Sometimes When I Pray" is a poignant song that questions whether there's a God to hear the prayers and ends with the words of a grandmother on her death bed: "If God has hands, they're your hands. If God has eyes, they're your eyes."
There's nothing preachy, or overly goosey and sentimental about "The Big Voice." Rather, it's a warm, compelling piece told and sung well by men who haven't a false bone in their bodies.
As they say, if you can fake sincerity, you got it made!