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Volume 1 Book 9 Episode 20a
of Living In The Bonus Round
the online diary of Steve Schalchlin
Life's a Beach (and then you open).
Composer/lyricist Steve "OnBiHe" Schalchlin.
An Online Diary of the
1998 Laguna Playhouse Production
of THE LAST SESSION
featuring Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard, Michele Mais, Bob Stillman, Joey Traywick, Positoids, NuBiHes and lavish amounts of love.
Part 20a. From Rodney, originally posted on the Talkin' Broadway Forums:Ah, the main attraction. Sunday morning I drove up I-5 up to Laguna Beach. I've been going to Laguna Beach for years. It's a quaint beach village with lovely shops and a great beach. If I ever bought a beach house, Laguna Beach would be the place. It really doesn't belong with Orange County but what can you do. I arrived 2 hours early and walked around. It was getting quite hot so I was glad when the Laguna Playhouse opened the doors and let people in.[FROM STEVE: THIS WAS RENTHEAD CAROL WHO WENT AND GOT THE ROLL OF TOILET PAPER. RODNEY TOLD ME THIS STORY THE WEEKENED AFTER CLOSING WHEN I PLAYED UP IN SAN FRANCISCO AND CAROL WAS THERE AND OVERHEARD HIM TELLING ME ABOUT IT.]
I saw The Last Session in New York in January. It was one of the reasons I decided to go back on New Years Day for my birthday. I had read Steve's postings and figured "I must support my brother". Unfortunately, the night before I saw it, I came down with a horrible intestinal flu and was up all night long. However, I still made it to the show in my precarious condition and was really surprised. The musical had heart, which is hard to find these days. It wasn't the best show ever and I had reservations about some of the lyrics. I wasn't fond of the theatre either but on the whole I enjoyed it. Naturally I purchased the CD and have been listening to it ever since.
Like everyone else, I was anxious to see it again in Laguna Beach. First of all, the theatre is a major improvement of the 47th Street Theatre. There was room. Room to move, room to breathe, room for everything. You all know the story by now so I won't go into it here but will speak of the performers. Bob Stillman looks much more handsome and younger with the shorter hair. He appeared to be more relaxed and enjoying himself. I didn't think he could get any better. I didn't really like Amy Coleman when I saw the show in NYC. I thought she was trying to imitate Tina Turner. However, she has really mellowed in the role, showing a softer side. I enjoyed her much more this time. P.M. Howard really had the best lines with his sarcastic comments from the booth. Joey Traywick as Buddy had a real innocence about him that Binky didn't have in New York. He was, as they say, Buddy. And then there was Michele Mais as Tryshia. What can I say? Talk about f***ing unbelievable, she blew me away. She has such a mellow, yet powerful voice; I was beside myself during The Singer and the Song. I could listen to her forever.
The crowd was an interesting cross section of Orange County, young/old, black/white; gay/straight and everyone seemed to be into it. Many had seen the show before as before it started, several were rushing over to a woman, who I took as being an employee, for tissue. However, she didn't have any. So someone ran to the ladies room and got a roll of toilet paper and was passing it around. Total strangers started laughing as they tore of a piece. It was very touching. Few things united people like this show does.What was also interesting about this production is that I've never heard such prolonged applause after the songs. Song after song was applauded for two to three times as long as any normal musical number in any other musical would get. It was astounding. I was surprised to see Jim as I assumed he would be with Steve back in Maine. I didn't get a chance to say hi! as he was speaking with Charles Nelson Reilly and what looked like to be protential producers for the move to L.A. so I didn't want to interfere.FROM DeANN:
If The Last Session transfers to LA, you must all go and see it. It is very touching and full of love. In these times when young college students are being murdered for being gay, it is so important to remember each other's humanity and equal right to be here to become whatever they can become. Today is Matthew Shepard's funeral. We should all take a moment today reflect on the events surrounding Matthew Shepard's death and remember that we are all connected whether we like it or not.Hi Steve, I saw TLS the second time on Sat. Oct. 10th (the 2pm show). I was sooooo excited to go again, my girlfriend and I saw the show on opening weekend and we both loved it and were very moved by it. I took my sister with me this time because Gayle, my girlfriend, could not see it again.FROM TINA:
It was too emotional for her due to her still dealing with her dad's death (from PCP). When we got there that afternoon I was amazed by the "buzz" about TLS before we even got in - I guess there were alot of people that had either seen it already or heard about it. My sister was really excited because I had been talking about it for two weeks. I did not play the CD for her before she saw it because I wanted her to experience the power of the music and songs in context to the play.
I was a little nervous because we had some "older" stuffy-looking people behind and next to us and I didn't want to hear any negative or anti-gay comments during the play. It turns out I didn't need to worry. The older couple behind us LOVED it. They laughed so loud (especially at the Diva and Vickie) and were quiet and moved during the ...quiet and moving parts :).
At intermission, as we followed them out to the lobby, the woman said how "beautiful" Bob's voice was and the guy said (direct quote here) "The guy that wrote this.... MAN!!!!..." I don't know exactly what he meant by that, but it sounded good and I think he was expressing what alot of us felt after the 1st Act - which is just amazement and a depth of emotions.
Well (sorry this is so long..) my sister cried at EVERY song. I watched her during the play and her face showed she was so enthralled with the story and people and music. It made my heart feel light and happy seeing her reaction.
At intermission we were standing outside, and I did not see one single person leave or have any negative comment... 'natch. I told my sister the second act was just as wonderful and we went back inside. We were sitting on the "Bob" side of the stage (as opposed to the "Joey" side) and before the lights went down, I saw Jimmy sitting across the theater in the "regular people" seats.
I pointed him out to my sister, and I guess I had a silly grin on my face because she told me to stop acting like a groupie! Anyway, during the second act when "Vickie" and "Trysha" are telling "Gideon" the reasons why they didn't want him to commit suicide the "older" lady that was seated next to us just LOST it. She was sobbing so hard that I teared up at seeing her so upset. I think that something in that dialog hit way too close to home for her. I handed her a tissue and she smiled, so I think she was ok.
At the end of the play, she was the first one to jump to her feet for the standing ovation in our row. In the lobby afterwards, I wanted to get your Bonus Round CD, ( I got the cast recording last time). There were a million people in line and what I heard over and over was how moved they were and how much the music spoke to them.
Jimmy was mobbed as he was walking through the lobby - I was thisclose to him and I just clammed up - couldn't say a word. I am a big chicken. I bought my CD and filed out of the theater with my sister who summed up her feelings on TLS by saying "I feel like I want to go out and be a better person."
Anyway, Steve, TLS has affected me and my family in a lot of ways and I am so thankful to you, Jimmy, the Cast and supporters for letting us be apart of it. Please keep us updated as to where TLS and you will be performing next. I am changed forever....
DeAnnWhile driving to the Laguna Playhouse for closing night I had this deep feeling of sadness.....this would be the last time I would be driving to the Laguna Playhouse to see TLS. I drove in silence all the way to the theatre. But when I got there I had this feeling of just pure excitement. I shouldn't be sad....I should be celebrating.SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW??
This day was to celebrate a fabulous run of a very fabulous show full of fabulous people. I suddenly got all excited. The patio of the theatre was bustling with people. Most of which were people I had seen every weekend since the show had started. This was going to be a special show.
The show started and was as wonderful as usual. The audience was very responsive. I got soo "into" the show that when intermission came I was surprised. I was sitting next to a very old couple that I wasn't very sure was too enthused with the show.
But at intermission they proved me wrong. The old man turned to his wife and said. "buddy is just like me...I think I learned something" and then he turned to me and asked if he could have one of my tissues and I saw a single tear roll down his cheek. I gave him a tissue and he was very nice. He asked me if I had seen the show and what I thought of it and why it affected me...and no one had ever cared to ask me these questions before so I really enjoyed talking to him.
The second act was wonderful. It was also very funny. When vicky asks buddy "haven't you ever had a three-way"...the old man next to me turns to me and says "whats a three-way?" I thought I was going to roll over and die. I tried to keep in my laughter.
I didn't know what to say so I pretended as if I didn't hear his question in hopes he would forget about it. WRONG....he decided to repeat his question even louder so I would be sure to hear it this time. I quickly told him that it was a game! I felt bad for telling him that....but I wasn't about to sit there, little ol' me, and explain to an old man what a three-way is....I DON'T THINK SO.
I stayed pretty dry-eyed until "The Singer and The Song" when I broke into tears. But I wasn't alone. I could hear everyone around me sniffling along with me. But after "The Singer and The Song" I regained my composure. Until the line "tomorrow night..same time same place". Usually that line is overlooked but at that time I thought about it being closing night at the laguna playhouse and I started crying and I cried all through When you care. When you Care was so powerful that I wanted to stand up and sing along.
I anticipated that after the show would be a bunch of tears and goodbyes but I was wrong. Everyone else had a good feeling about the show continuing so it was mostly a big picture taking session and a bunch of "until next time"'s. It was great. It was a memory!
Although most people couldn't recognize it at the time, Laguna was something special between all of us, the fans as well as the cast, and I will always remember that time. I hope everyone will too. It's one of the paradoxes of life that sometimes we have something that for a time is wonderful, and perfect; but it changes and then isn't the same as what we once had.
I try not to be sad that the wonderful thing has changed, rather, value the wonderful times (and my memories of them) and look forward to even more wonderful times in the near future.
As Gideon says, "This isn't the end of the album pal. Its just the end of side one!"
Well, if you'll recall, at the beginning of this diary I stated that the only thing that mattered was for us to live in the moment and enjoy the show while it was there. And enjoy it we did. And not just us. We picked up a pack of new fans and garnered rave reviews from every publication that reviewed us.
So what happens now? Well, the good news is that the quality of the Laguna production has opened doors for us that previously were not open. We have invitations from some major theatres in Los Angeles asking us to move the show there. We are putting together a production team to facilitate this move. My phone is ringing off the hook and my email box is exploding with new invitations for speaking and singing engagements.
One of the things I am most proud of is how enthusiastically the fans of Jonathan Larson's RENT, a Broadway musical, have embraced our show. Until RENT, the Broadway community had pretty much lost the newer younger generation. But the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning RENT, with its "downtown" characters dealing with AIDS and lost dreams, and its pop rock score and youthful cast brought young people back to the theatre in droves.
Sadly, though, Jonathan Larson did not survive to see this success. He died unexpectedly just as the show was about to open. If you go back into the Bonus Round diary a couple of years, you'll find a day when Jimmy and I were watching the Tonys. I was sick as a dog at that time and Jimmy, angry with tears shouted, "You WILL LIVE to get your Tony!"
Frankly, I don't care if I ever get a Tony or not. All during this time in Laguna, as I stood outside the theatre mixing with fans and signing autographs -- hugging theatre-goers and making a fool of myself, I kept thinking about Jonathan Larson. Thinking that he would probably have LOVED hanging out with fans and watching hearts change with his music.
And that's the bottom line. It's great that we got fantastic reviews. It's great that the show totally sold out by the last week of the run. All that stuff is food for ego and I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it all, but it was the tear-streaked faces that got to me.
It was people telling me that their hearts were changed, that they learned about love and acceptance.
It was people who were living with illness, either as sufferer or as caregiver telling me they found new strength knowing they were not "going it alone" because someone dared to voice their pain in a way they and their friends could understand it.
It was Rick Stein telling me that the Laguna Playhouse had received new attention and praise for their production -- "an artistic leap forward."
It was rediscovering the talents of Bob Stillmand and Amy Coleman, and being blessed with the new talents of P.M. Howard, Michele Mais and Joey Traywick.
I have every reason to believe that we will move on to newer and greater heights. Interest in TLS because of the production has zoomed off the charts. But even if nothing else happened, if it all ended right here, it would have been enough. Most writers dream of seeing their work fully and perfectly realized, but rarely do they get that chance. Almost never. But look at what has been given to us! The world!!
So, dearest reader o' mine. Thanks for sticking around. Thanks for reading. Thanks for writing me. Thanks for coming to see my show and my solo concerts. Thanks for caring. You are the biggest part of all of this.
This isn't the end of the album pal. Its just the
END OF BOOK NINE. On to BOOK TEN >>>
The official stills by Still Productions
| Pics by Steve | Cast
pics by Steve | Fun pics
LA Times Review | TLS fan club page with pictures | L.A. critics quotes page
"From Hate To Humanity" | TLS Fan Chat Room | BennyTour fan pics
All photos and text are © 1998 by Steve Schalchlin.