I Married Ethel Merman
Volume 3 Book 2 Part 5 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Jim Brochu & Steve Schalchlin in The Big Voice.
Zephyr Theatre, Los Angeles.

[ Book 3-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] -- [ Book 3-3 ]
December 26-31, 2002.
Our Final L.A. Performances.
Our last two shows in Los Angeles couldn't have gone better. The box office phone was ringing off the wall and people were lining up to see us. That's how it is in L.A. Everyone waits until the last minute to see what it is they might have missed. Jimmy was well, although he was still a bit "under," physically.

On Friday, I let him out of the house tentatively. We did a little driving around to see how he was doing and the fresh air felt good. The weather here in El Lay was sunny but cold-ish so the crispness felt bracing and healthy. But even that little drive-around wore him out, so I put him back in bed and continued to wait on him like a good husband.

I kind of enoyed being in the role of caregiver, mostly because I liked ordering him around. It was so -- different. But I think I'm actually lousy at the job. He's much better at taking care of me than I am of him, I think. For one thing, the house got messier and messier. I never know where to put "junk," so it just piles up.

Several friends called wanting to drop in and give us Christmas presents but I barred the door. I told them it was because he was too sick for visitors but the truth is I was too embarrassed for anyone to see the apartment. (Okay, and he gets excited when people come over. I wanted him to stay STILL and QUIET).

When he was still coughing on Thursday, I was worried he wouldn't make it on Saturday, but by Friday he was stronger and on Saturday he was weak but ready for the show.

The saddest part about ending our run was leaving "little Jeramy," (as Jimmy always called him) our stage manager. It was like breaking up a family. Jeramy has been with us from the Lex workshop and transferred to the Zephyr. A wonderful actor in his own right, he told us outright that he wouldn't have kept on stage managing for anyone else. We had created this fun little family of three and now his two daddies were going away.


Saturday night was a very full house. From the first funny line of the play, where Jimmy says, "And show business was born!" the audience was totally and completely with us. They laughed in places they had never laughed before. It was riotous!

A few times, I could sense Jimmy having to slow down because his body was still not perfectly up to speed. He'd get on a roll, almost lose his breath and then slow down. But the audience stayed right with us all the way. It was so THRILLING! The thing is, shows like ours have to find their audiences. People don't know what to expect when they go to something completely original, so during the course of the run, you get ups and downs.

"That's the voice of God?
It's sounds like Gracie Allen with a bad Italian accent."

Sometimes we'd get a few audience members who simply didn't want anything gay. Or sometimes you'd get people who were only wanted big sets or costume changes. When something is new and is as highly touted by the critics and press as The Big Voice, doing this initial run was kind of like a shakedown cruise. You start off big, you get into stormy weather as the curious wander in wondering what all the hoopla is about.

Jim hears The Big Voice!
(Very artsy shot with Jim twirling in the spotlight).

Then you begin finding your bearings as the audiences members who loved it talk it up and bring their friends. Suddenly, the reactions are louder because people know what they're getting into. What we found is our biggest fans were people who love musical theatre for itself. The Big Voice, in essence, is about the power of musical theatre to transform lives. (The spiritual journey and our relationship might be the PLOT, but the show itself is about the power of theatre).

It's a fascinating journey to experience this ride of discovery. In this discovery phase, we never knew what to expect from the people watching us.

By the end of the run, people knew what to expect. Many TLS fans whom we have never met before all found their way to the Zephyr and told us afterwards how much it had meant to them. And it's funny because the reactions were similar to the TLS reactions. Some people laughed and were almost giggly as they left the theatre. Some people were so overwhelmed with emotion, they couldn't move.

Larry, Lisa, Ruth, Steve, Kevin, Michael.
Some of our best friends in the world.
(In other words, they frequently FEED us. We love to eat.)

Everyone gave us big hugs and kisses.

Nik Venet's assistant Sue Crawford.

So, the El Lay run comes to a close. We managed, this past year, to write, produce, direct and star in a new musical. Open it in a workshop, which moved to a full production. Garner rave reviews from every single critic who saw it, and secured one major award nomination from GLAAD ( the other theatre awards have yet to be announced) and was awarded our second PFLAG Oscar Wilde Award.

More importantly, we proved that you don't need bells and whistles and machinery and special effects or casts of thousands to make great theatre.

A keyboard.
A table.
Two chairs.
And a mirror ball.

Next up, New York! Plus we have some other big surprises we're working on. It's been an extraordinary year of ups and downs. A few times we didn't know where our next meal was coming from and several times friends had to swoop in and save us. (Thank you Maggie, Gail, Bev, the Jasons and Ken, especially).

Jimmy and I feel tremendously blessed. It's amazing to think that The Last Session began six years ago! That we have survived and thrived since then and that we begin this new year with a brand new show, new hope and new opportunities. Speaking of which, readers should not forget the wonderful Dallas-TLS cast album and the fact that their production made the Best of 2002 lists.

Is this an ending or a beginning?

Why, we haven't even started.

[ Book 3-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] -- [ Book 3-3 ]

© 1996-2002 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.