Book by Jim Brochu
Music & Lyrics by Steve Schalchlin
From out of the dark we hear the words, "Hi everybody. It's me. Gideon. Greetings from the great beyond..." As the lights come up we see Gideon at the piano in a recording studio singing and playing Save Me A Seat, a song Gideon has written about his own memorial service. At the end of the song, we hear the voice of Jim, a producer/engineer in the booth offstage.
Jim realizes that there is something quite different between this session and the hundreds of others they've done over the years. Gideon admits to Jim that he has given up fighting his battle against AIDS and has no more strength left to fight. Tomorrow, he will kill himself. But first he will record these songs about his life for his family and friends.
Jim comes into the studio and insists on talking about the situation but Gideon refuses. "Not while I'm paying you studio time," he says. He begs Jim to let him record these songs before he's too weak to ever sing again, and he asks Jim not to tell the others about his decision to commit suicide. Jim reluctantly agrees. As they prepare to record the next number, the first backup singer arrives. It's Tryshia, a black lady in her middle years with ample proportions and a tremendous voice. She is one of L.A.'s busiest studio singers but has come to this session to sing for her old friend.
Close on her heels the second backup singer, Vicki, walks in smoking a cigarette and complaining about parking. She is carrying a full bar in her tote bag and offers Gideon and Tricia a drink to "liven up the evening." Gideon declines. "With all the other medications I'm on," he tells her, "I'd spontaneously combust."
When Gideon wonders what's keeping Gordon, the third singer, Vicki tells him that Gordon has taken a job out of town but that she has hired someone to replace him. It's a young fellow named Buddy who's new in town and Gideon's biggest fan. Gideon is upset because he didn't want any strangers around for this particular session.
Buddy enters out of breath. He is so thrilled to be in the same room with his idol, Gideon, that he gushes about how he sang Gideon's hymn when he was a small boy in Church and has worn out several copies of Gideon's only hit album. He also shows Gideon his four CDs and says that he has been preaching and singing ever since he was a young child. He even shows Gideon that he recorded his favorite Gideon song. He also tells Gideon that he has written a song for Gideon. Gideon tells him he'll look at it later.
Gideon is unsure that Buddy can handle the material, but the kid assures him that he sight reads, plays five instruments and is up to the job. Gideon explains that he is recording songs about his life - a musical photo album - for his family and friends. He begins with a tribute to his parents, simple people who made up in love for all the luxuries they couldn't provide. (The Preacher and the Nurse).
Buddy is thrilled when Gideon tells him that he has a good voice and can stay for the whole session. Buddy is gushing about how happy he is that Gideon is still a Christian as is evidenced by the song about his parents. He can't wait to call his mom and tell her that Gideon hasn't lost the faith. Gideon says the songs is about yesterday. Then, when Gideon announces the title of the next song, Buddy thinks that it's a hymn about Jesus. Gideon corrects him. The song is really about the experiences he went through when he told his friends and family that he had tested positive for HIV.
Buddy doesn't understand. When Gideon explains that he contracted AIDS through unprotected gay sex, Buddy is shattered. He denounces Gideon as an "abomination" and tries launches into a tirade about gays and sin. Gideon finally gets pissed and accuses Buddy of stealing. Buddy says, "I never stole anything from anyone." Gideon shows him the CD with Gideon's song on it. "I never got royalties for this. In the Bible they call that stealing. Buddy, frustrated and hurt, runs out of the studio leaving Vicki and Tricia to record (Somebody's Friend).
Gideon sings about all the advice friends gave him when he found out he had AIDS and especially one who suggested he seek out support from those who are in the same boat as he is. (The Group).
At the end of the song, Buddy returns. He is armed with his Bible and tells the singers that he believes God sent him there to help Gideon see the evil of his ways and repent. Gideon invites Buddy to stay but not preach. When Buddy agrees, Gideon give him a solo to sing - a song written from Gideon's lover Jack's point of view and how he has dealt with the devastating effects of tending to a partner with a terminal illness. (Going It Alone).
Vicki becomes very emotional hearing the song. She is suddenly angry that she didn't get to sing that song and tells Buddy to be careful, that Gideon seduces young boys with his songs. Tryshia tells off both Buddy and Vicki as wasting her time. At the end of Act One, Buddy is left alone in the studio with only the script of Gideon's album and his Bible.
At the opening of Act Two, Gideon is doing a little bit of the song Buddy brought. It's called When You Care. When Buddy catches Gideon doing the song, Gideon stops and asks if Buddy wrote the very loving words. Buddy says yes. Gideon tells him he ought to read them "sometime."
As the others come back in, Buddy discovers that Gideon and Vicki were once married. Vicki explains it was a long time ago and that Gideon's present marriage to Jack worked out pretty well. Buddy steps back into his pulpit and calls the marriage a sham. Gideon explodes. "I was you hero until your brought the God of love into this room," he tells the boy. "Now I'm a degenerate sinner. Isn't it wonderful what religion does for people?" (At Least I Know What's Killing Me).
After venting his frustration at the boy, Gideon gives the boy and break and tells him he understands where he's coming from. That he, Gideon used to be Buddy. He used to believe everything without question and was just as judgmental and by-the-book as the young singer. They make a little peace between them and Gideon pleads with everyone to let him finish the session.
He announces that the next song is his own journey through the minefields of modern day medicine and should be a music video. The stage goes black except for spot on Gideon who enters into a fantasy with the others in war costumes. Buddy sings Friendly Fire with the girls as lethal backup singers and Jim as the weird sarcastic doctor. The song is 42nd Street as reconceived by Kurt Weill.
Before Buddy can say anything, Gideon segues right into the next song which dramatizes the day he first got sick with pneumonia and thought he would die. It was only the love of his friends that pulled him through. (Connected).
Jim has had a glitch in the recording of the song and wants to do it again. Gideon can't. He doesn't have the strength. When Tryshia suggests that they finish the session the next day, Jim tells him they can't and forces Gideon to reveal his plans for suicide to the others. At first they don't believe him. He's just too optimistic and upbeat to do something like that. Gideon tells them that he's lost the will to go on. He's just tired and wants to end his life with dignity before the disease leaves him a living corpse.
Vicki gets hysterical and confronts Gideon. She accuses him of only thinking of himself, as usual, and leaving other people to clean up his mess. Buddy, too, tells Gideon that he should not kill himself. Not for any theological reason but for the simple fact that he won't be around to write any more songs. Tryshia agrees. She tells him that he can't pull the plug on himself as long as he still has a purpose in life. (One More Song).
Gideon promises that he won't go through with plans the next day but can't promise that he will never do it. He invites them all to go out for coffee. They all agree, except for Buddy. He can't. But he tells Gideon that he will come back and finish the session the next day if Gideon agrees. Maybe they can go out the next night.
Just before Buddy leaves, however, he asks Gideon for a favor. Gideon replies that he will be happy to look at the song he brought. Buddy says, No. It's something else...
We won't reveal that request here. You'll have to see the show.
BACK TO STEVE'S HOME PAGE || BACK TO THE LAST SESSION HOME PAGE