Love / Reason / Belief
Volume 4 Book 1 Part 9 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich, Connecticut, USA
Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich, Connecticut, USA

[ Book 3-10 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Book 4-2 ]

Jim & Steve in
The Big Voice: God or Merman?
New York Musical Theatre Festival
The Belt Theatre on 37th Street
Sept 24, 8pm; Sept 26, 8pm
Sept 28, 8pm; Sept 29, 1pm
Oct 2, 1pm; Oct 3, 4.30pm

August 27 - 28, 2004.
A Weekend in the Country.
The last weekend in New York is a jumble of happy images.  I'm literally staggered by the memories, trying to bundle them up and hang onto them. Like trying to carry too many puppies, each one feels so wonderful, you try to hug it and hold it before you've captured all the rest.

So, let's start with the train ride into the country. It came about when Mark Janas, musical director for "Africa," invited us to sing the special guest spot in Julie Reyburn's cabaret act which they would be performing this weekend up in Norwich Connecticut. That turned into, "Hey, the theatre is dark on Saturday night. Why don't you guys also do Big Voice." So, we contacted artistic director Brett Bernardini and offered to so Big Voice for free as a benefit for the theatre. It would give us a chance to do it once before New York.

The beautiful, 66-seat theatre is called "Spirit of Broadway"  named after the huge "Broadway Theater" in Norwich which, before it was torn down, was active as an "out of town" house for shows heading to New York.

Jimmy and Steve in the train. Jimmy has gone to the club car to buy me a diet coke and a sandwich. I have it all laid out on my tray. The train swerves. Diet coke can slides into the plastic cup. Cup falls over, spilling a full cup of diet coke and ice onto Jim's lap. This abruptly ends Jim's phone conversation.

Earlier this week I had met with Mark and Julie at Mark's apartment because Mark felt Julie might like my songs and perhaps sing one. I wasn't obvious about it or anyhing. No more than me on my knees begging, "Please sing my song!" I played several but the one they were most attracted to was "Going It Alone." Mark tried a few things, asking me if he can fool around with the feel and the arrangement. Sounded good to me! I then left them to work out the song on their own.

When we arrived, Mark announced that he would additionally love for us to include the new song "My Rising Up!" from New World Singing, which I had also played them. It would be for the encore. I would sing lead and he, Mark and Julie would do the back-ups. Here are some photos from that rehearsal.

Steve Schalchlin, John Fischer, Julie Reyburn, Mark Janas.
Steve Schalchlin, John Fischer, Julie Reyburn, Mark Janas.

John Fischer, Julie Reyburn, Mark Janas.

Steve Schalchlin, John Fischer, Julie Reyburn, Mark Janas.
Steve Schalchlin, John Fischer, Julie Reyburn, Mark Janas.

John Fischer, Julie Reyburn, Mark Janas, Steve Schalchlin.
I'm trying to describe the arrangement because it's wrong on the page.

Now, it's Friday night, Julie is doing her act and she has the audience in the palm of her hand. It doesn't hurt that she's a hometown girl, but that's not why they're transfixed. She has an engaging rapport that's casual and sincere, switching back and forth between hilarious novelty  and deeply emotional love songs.

Julie Reyburn
Julie Reyburn rehearsing.

Julie Reyburn, Mark Janas, John Fischer
Julie is always fully present when she sings, even when she rehearses.

Then it was time for "Going It Alone." After a brief introduction, Mark began the chords TLS fans know so well. But he was pacing it, carefully breaking the beat and just laying down a sound pallet.

Julie entered the song with great care. You could tell her entire heart was wrapped up in it from the first note. The audience went dead silent and we were literally bathed in beauty. Mark stayed with the basic chord structure, but every once in awhile he would find something that gave it a little emotional hit. Julie, meanwhile, was starting to soar. I could feel my throat tighten and, as they got to "What about what you've been through as well," my eyes started to burn and I was absolutely held rock solid frozen for the entirety of the song.

Anyone watching me would have seen the equivalent of a marble statue, transfixed and so happy. Not just happy that Julie was knocking the song out of the ballpark but so happy that she was doing it with my song. There is no higher moment of elation for songwriter than to hear your own song being sung by someone with a beautiful voice who is fully and completely connected emotionally.

It ended in a moment of intense stillness. The audience held its breath and allowed the moment to linger. Then, suddenly, they exploded into an ovation that went on for a minute or longer. It just kept going on and on. I thought the people would never stop applauding. I was in tears, absolutely stunned at her rendition. It came so totally and completely from the heart.

I honestly couldn't move. I felt frozen in place. I also thought back to my own frustration earlier this year when I set, as my goal for the year, to get other people singing my songs. Who could have predicted that it would have turned out like this? I think I was still in a daze when everyone was looking at me. Julie had just introduced us.

It was OUR turn to sing!

Follow that? Good lord.

Luckily, Jim took the microphone and made the audience laugh. I got an email from someone that more fully explains what happened.

"I had the privilege of seeing you (and Jimmy) perform twice this weekend at the Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich CT. The first night w/Julie Reyburn. After Julie sang one of your song from The Last Session - and had the entire audience in tears - you two burst onto the scene as if two clowns - breaking the spell and instantly concocting & weaving an entirely different spell with your "commercial" for The Big Voice. Of course, with that tease, I had to buy a ticket for the Big Voice - and I am so glad I did. It was truly fabulous.  I left the theater and thought about the play and you both all the way home. You are both so talented, so funny, so brave, so lucky...
"I just wanted to say thank you for sharing, for the entertainment: hilarious & sad

"I think you will just have to suck it up - Potsie was right!!
I'm glad you didn't die"

And miss all this? I'm glad I didn't die, too. After Julie's show, we learned that our performance of The Big Voice for the following night was completely sold out, with a waiting list. Our last run-through before performing the show in New York would be a room full of total strangers, all expecting something great. (gulp)

After Julie's show we decided to hang out together at this ancient early American house. One of the oldest houses in America. All of us, the Chicago Five: John, Deb, Mark, Jim, and myself (plus Julie), sitting around a table. Candles lit. No TV. No electric lighting. Telling stories, singing songs, remembering the bond we shared in Chicago, including our movie, "Gentry In The Zone," which I am still editing.

The next day we raced to the theatre because we suddenly realized we hadn't packed a script. We'd have to print one out there. We met Karen who happily helped out. Karen became our chauffeur and helper and food-getter. She's a volunteer at the Spirit of Broadway and couldn't do enough to make us happy. Thank you, Karen.

This whole event was to be a benefit for their building fund. We met Glen the lighting designer who, with Jimmy, plotted out the lighting cues on paper. Then we ran a tech of the full show. Logan was on sound cues. (Again, all volunteer). The tech went so fast. Glen didn't miss anything. Even running it by hand he had it down.

Glen & Logan.

When we played the show that night, they didn't make a single mistake. It was as if they'd be playing the show for a full run.

And the audience! It was one of those shows where the audience is so with you, they scream at anything. I kept thinking of all the stress Jimmy's been through putting up a new show -- and how fantastic, how healing, all this must be for him. I think we must have added 20 minutes of just laughter to the running time. It felt so good, after so many months off, to just be doing it again. It all felt new and so alive! And I don't think we stumbled on a single word.

And how appropriate, too, that one of the main themes of our show is the redemptive power of musical theatre!

Out in the lobby afterwards, I all but begged Brett to produce TLS -- and he said YES, so keep yer fingers crossed. I'm gonna hold him to it. He also sent this email that he received from a patron.


It's been about 24 hours since we enjoyed the wonderful time last night at The Spirit of Broadway Theater, and my wife and I cannot stop singing "Why, Oh Why!" followed by peels of helpless giggles.  Thank you so much for providing such world class entertainment to our little corner of the earth.

"Steve and Jim's performance was simultaneously hilarious and thought provoking.  We both are overflowing with compassion for them and the wrenching times they have emerged from.  It was extremely helpful to see another former fundamentalist Baptist recovering nicely!  My wife laughed till tears ran down her face, and my sides were aching for hours.  I think we would go so far as to say it was a "Religious Experience".

"For a few hours our work and world were miles away as we followed these gifted performers.  Following the show, they were surrounded quickly last night, and our babysitting time was almost up, so we were unable to personally express our thanks for a truly delightful evening.  So, would you please pass along our gratitude to them?"

Exhausted, elated, buzzing with happiness and energy, the six of us packed ourselves into the van and John drove us back to New York. We were all tucked in by 1am.

Next: The last performance of "Africa & Plumbridge" -- and the NY Fringe Awards announcement.

[ Book 3-10 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Book 4-2 ]

© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.
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