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
www.LagunaPlayhouse.com 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.