". . . . ONE OF THE BEST OF THE SEASON"
John Willis - Theater World
"BLESSED . . . HAUNTING . . . EXUBERANT"
Peter Marks - New York TImes
"Along with large doses of humor . . . "THE LAST SESSION" is as dramatically engrossing and warmly human as ANGELS IN AMERICA and RENT . . . "
Matt Mirapaul - New York Times CyberTimes
"Two powerhouse hours of a show . . . . You won't find five better performances anywhere in New York City."
Jerry Talmer - The Villager
Valley Vantage / 4-Front
"Hopefully this won't be the last session for
the musical The Last Session after its 1-night presentation.
What a night it was! A sold-out Cinegrill audience cheered The National Academy of Songwriters and ASCAP one-night concert presentation of The Last Session composed and performed by Steve Schalchlin with book by his mate Jim Brochu, and hosted by Rue McClanahan, to benefit the medical fund for Steve Schalchlin who has AIDS.
There have been other plays and musical about AIDS but never has there been one as powerful and entertaining as this. With humor, heart and honesty it tells the story of Gideon (Steve) the son of a parson and a nurse in mid-America, and his journey through life playing piano in churches, ocean cruises, N.Y. bars, until he lands in L.A. where he becomes the president (sic) of NAS. Two years ago he faced death from AIDS and decided to devote his remaining years to composing songs for what has become The Last Session written with his mate of 11 years Jim Brochu.
With the superb singing and and acting talents of Yve Evans, Marjory Graue and Steve Wilde. Schalchlin piano-played and performed his magnificent creation. Staged at the Cinegrill (courtesy of J.D. Kessler) as if it was being recorded in a studio, it's filled with rehearsal laughs, stirring melodies and clever lyrics. And a book that's never mushy, maudlin or downbeat. It's message is emotionally uplifting -- it's not how long one lives, it's how well you live by caring and loving. Schalchlin is hoping for a Broadway engagement by 1997. With the way it touches the heart and tickles the funny bone it could happen."
Delos BBS (Larry is a retired Variety & LA Times reviewer)
It was SRO tonight at the Cinegrill at the Hollywood Roosevelt for Steve Schalchlin's "The Last Session," in concert format. The room was packed with Steve's peers from The National Academy of Songwriters and ASCAP.
A lot of tears and a lot of laughter...all in the right places...as Steve and a cast of four others moved briskly through a witty piece of musical dramaturgy that was basically Steve's biography, fictionalized to protect the innocent, and perhaps the guilty too.
They got some help from a full church choir whose name I was going to remember but didn't. It was, I think, a Presbyterian group from the Valley. They were heavenly at the right spots. (They were the Heaven Bound Sound from First Presbyterian Church in Sherman Oaks led by Alan Satchwell. --Steve).
Steve's life partner Jim Brochu wrote the book and Steve wrote the lyrics. He credits Marie Cain for lyrics to "Friendly Fire." John Bettis and Jim Brochu are credited too for additional lyrics. Jim is also the director and sardonic Voice from the Control Room.
Rue McClanahan, who most of us remember from "Golden Girls," was the host, before the show.l She was in top form, at her gently lecherous best, though we're told she was nursing a cold.
Steve, always at the piano, played Gideon. Yve Evans played Tricia. Marjory Graue played Vicki, and Steven Wilde played Buddy.
Buddy has a protagonist role, introducing superstitious self-righteous religiocity into an otherwise loving situation, a recording session among people who know one another very well.
What they don't know is that Gideon plans to finish recording all his songs that night then go home and take enough pills to end his life, so painful have the AIDS treatments become. Along the way, they somewhat educate Buddy to a more loving attitude and convince Gideon that he has more songs to write...that this really was not his Last Session.
It's set in a Cold-War bomb shelter in Burbank. The shelter's been converted into a recording studio. It plays well. The tunes and lyrics are hard to forget: Going it Alone [Together] - The Group supportive men and women with HIV who listen, no matter how difficult the story; Friendly Fire - where the doctors and the pills are like the misdirected bullets that rain down on one's own positions in war, unintentionally killing; the sarcastic At Least I Know What's Killing Me! aimed at minnow-minded homophobes and other brain dead; and the tender and eerie Save Me a Seat, sung by the (presumed) spirit of Gideon watching his own funeral and going home with every one of his friends afterward.
I got one of the autographed audio tapes handed to all who attended. Steve signed it "Steve S." Maybe he has the same trouble I do spelling Schalchlin.
When I started writing this, I wanted to make a brief report but old habits die slowly. I used to review events like this for newspapers. I didn't go tonight as a reviewer. I was there as a fan. But I'm a fan because of the wit and beauty of the songs and lyrics and because of the down-deep decency and courage of Steve S. Before the performance, he took some ribbing from recording industry types who are well aware of his irrepressibility. No one's ever going to defatigate him.
The heavy rain outside helped rather than hindered. I think it made everyone in the room feel closer to one another and to the loving crowd on the stage.
It was a feast, guys.
And, with normal luck, we should be reading about "The Last Session" opening off Broadway sometime after the first of the year. Remember you read about it here first! :)
Steve's home page
Jim Brochu's Home Page
The Last Session Home Page
The Last Session Song List
The funny story at the bar