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‘The Big Voice’ makes its one-night stand

Tom Titus

The first of the Laguna Playhouse’s three Summer Monday Specials

arrives this Monday, Aug. 12, with the provocative title of “The Big

Voice: God or Merman?”


This new musical comedy was composed by Steve Schalchlin and Jim

Brochu, the creators of “The Last Session,” an award-winning show

that had its West Coast premiere at the Playhouse in 1998. Schalchlin and Brochu will perform the piece, which they describe as “the story

of two men from different backgrounds who search for God but find


Ethel Merman instead.” It will be at the Playhouse one night only

with a 7:30 p.m. curtain.

“The Big Voice” is based on autobiographical material like “The

Last Session,” which depicted a singer-songwriter who, after a final

recording session, plans to give up on his battle with AIDS by

committing suicide. In a startling turn of events, he is dissuaded

from doing so by a devout Christian singer who is appalled by the

songwriter’s homosexuality, but has learned much about tolerance by


participating in this session with him.

Songwriter Schalchlin’s near death from AIDS and his gradual

recovery --thanks to partner Brochu’s encouragement to write songs

about the experience -- formed the basis for “The Last Session,”

which continues to be produced in cities around the world. The score

is comprised of pop genre songs infused with lyrics in the musical

theater tradition, often bitingly satirical or tender and

bittersweet. Schalchlin frequently tours the country performing


concerts that feature songs from the show. Brochu, a noted state

director and writer, authored a biography of Lucille Ball and is a

frequent lecturer about her life.

Tickets to their latest creation, “The Big Voice,” are $25 and may

be purchased by calling (949) 497-2787, online at or in person at the playhouse, 606 Laguna

Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. The other two Monday night specials will

follow close on the heels of “The Big Voice.” The first will feature

Susan Egan and Lisa Richard in concert Aug. 19 at 7 and 9 p.m. Both

noted singers began their careers in Orange County, and Egan recently

signed on to be interim artistic director of the Orange County High

School of the Arts in Santa Ana for the upcoming season.

The final special focuses on Charles Nelson Reilly in “Save It for

the Stage: The Life of Reilly,” in which the comic

entertainer-director will take his audience on the roller coaster

ride of his life.

It’s scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 26.

* TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.