Have you been wondering where they went, those brilliant men who used to write the great musicals, the kind that reached into your heart, pouring into it that pure cheer-and-shout kind of thrill that sent you home happier and wiser for having been there? Oddly enough, they went to California, and their names are Steve Schlachlin and Jim Brochu, and if you are planning a trip to New York City and intending to get tickets to something, you should choose their Off-Broadway show at The Actors Temple Theatre, “The Big Voice: God or Merman?”. (And, if you are coming with your parents, aunt, niece, nephew or straight friends from college, bring them along, assured that they will love this just as much as you will love this.)
For a long time, I’ve been feeling restless and dissatisfied as a paying member of the American audience, wondering why the shows of recent years cannot seem to get out of the way of their own material. Why they seem contrived, wooden, unsure of themselves and vaguely not up to the business of delivering entertainment. Having attended a preview of "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" last night with C and Joe and Eddie, I can tell you why. Steve Schlachlin and Jim Brochu handily supply the ignition needed to start the blaze that consumes their firewood (God, Merman, boyhood and religion), transforming it into a fabulous show about love, romance, survival and hope.
Because I strongly hate reviewers who map out for you in detail the terrain of a show, like someone driving you to a party while previewing the foibles of the guests, the table setting and the menu, you won’t get much more about their show from me except the promise that the music is gorgeous in that leave-you-humming-and-gotta-have-the-CD way, and that you will laugh and maybe tear up a bit and definitely poke the ribs of whomever you are sitting with several times before the final curtain. The show also made me wish we had Steve and Jim as neighbors and friends here in New York, and left us in awe of their talent as writers and performers who sooo do not need the glitz of a big techno theater to deliver their goods. Here is a show that could have been produced in the proverbial barn with one piano, a bare bulb and just as much success. I hope you see it.
PS: I can’t resist this one disclosure. The Roman Catholic Church is in its current threadbare, misguided and hobbled condition because men like Jim Brochu chose not to become priests. None of the gut-twisting hand-wringing anguish of Andrew Sullivan comes close to expressing the truth of this matter as well as does any five minutes of “The Big Voice: God or Merman?”.