Volume 4 Book 2 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Steve gets kind words from Stokes.
October 1, 2004.
[ Book 4-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-3 ]
At this point, show-wise we were pretty stressed out. We had just had Thursday off. Today, Friday, would also be a day off. Looking back (I'm writing this a week later), I don't even remember what we did that day. Was it still raining?October 2, 2004.
By then, our routine was set. I would go down to the little "breakfast" area with my oatmeal and nuts, get a big bowl out of the cabinet, mix my oatmeal, stick it in the microwave and read the NY Times there on the table.
Now that I think about it, I do remember what I was thinking that morning. In the Times, unexpectedly, there was a section on NYMF featuring reviews of three or four shows. They were all pretty positive, but all I could think was this: It's not us there in the New York Times. I tried not to begrudge the other shows their time in the spotlight, but, okay I was jealous. I admit it. I'm small minded.
See, even though the Tuesday night performance had been one of the most exciting and audience participatory in the history of The Big Voice. And even though the show had a great notice at Theatremania.com and was getting great "reviews" from the hardcore Internet board participants at "All That Chat!" I was still feeling kinda devastated by the fact that our previous performance this past Wednesday at 1pm was pretty sparsely attended. I sat there consumed with "How do I get us some exposure without stopping traffic in Times Square?" (like that's even possible).
However, Amanda over at NYMF had, on Thursday, secured us a a little first person article in a daily free paper called AM New York. It was a nice feature accompanied by a color photograph. Still, I couldn't be satisfied.
One ace was that on this day, Friday, we were to be reviewed in the gay street rags, HX and NEXT. So I crossed my fingers and hoped for a good review.
All over the chatboards, BTW, this festival -- first time out of the gate -- was beginning to have a profound effect on the musical landscape of New York. This was because everyone was talking about how no new musicals (except one) would open this fall season on Broadway. On some of my music lists there was talk about how musical theatre was "dead."
As NYMF shows began to open over the three week period, though, you could feel the energy and excitement build. The fans were finding the shows and before we even got there, word was that one had already found a home for an extension and was selling out.
We did get one good piece of news, though. The Chelsea Pines had taken pity on us and assigned us a "permanent room." We could stay in the one we had moved to on Thursday and wouldn't be moving until Sunday when it was time to switch hotels.
Anyway, I was having this nightmare that our next show, another 1pm show, would be dead. That word of mouth was NOT kicking in. That we had maxed out our credit cards just to survive here -- and it would all be for naught.
Speaking of which, you cannot IMAGINE how fast twenty dollar bills go flying out of your hand in New York City. Plus, we had the unexpected hotel room expenses on top of that. I could see us going home and selling the cats.
Finally, the gay press hit. We picked up both magazines and thumbed through them looking for our review.
Nothing. Dissed again.
The Cellophane Twins. I went back to the room in despair and just laid there beneath the posters of Kim Novak (in the Kim Novak room), feeling totally lost.
Well, how silly. To be in New York City doing nothing. Forget that. Our friend Bonny Dore was in town with a client she manages, Jason Stuart, a "gay" comedian. So we decided to just throw ourselves into the streets and have some fun. Tomorrow would have to take care of itself.
On the billboard: "Gay Comic Jason Stuart."
I took pictures inside during his show.
Jason was funny. In fact, all the comedians that night were really funny, especially this tall, skinny white guy named Bob Marley (go figure). Filled with energy we went back to Kim Novak and slept fitfully.
Saturday would have to take care of itself.
The Stars Come Out.The thing about being in a show is that you live in a little bubble. Everything depends upon people talking about you. And talking GOOD about you. What are they hearing? What are they saying? Sometimes it feels like you're shouting into a dead room with no one listening.
And yet, you also feel like you're in the center of the universe and that the entire world is centered around your show. You cannot fathom that everyone doesn't know who you are -- and that they're not all fighting for tickets to your show. That guy in the diner! Doesn't he know the best show in the universe is playing only two more performances??
So, waking up on Saturday, after the disappointment of having been left out of the gay media in NYC, I was totally dreading the matinee. I kept picturing an empty house. An empty street. Then I'd catch myself and decide to picture a full house. A full house with.. with.. celebrities and spotlights and hordes of reporters wanting to find out what this amazing new show was that they'd been hearing about.
Two shows left. Two last times to make an impression and prove ourselves.
We took the train up to the Times Square area to run some kind of errand and we still had a couple of hours to kill. So we decided to pay a little visit to the church, St. Malachy's, that originally played the Merman song with its huge church bells.
Inside I saw a statue of a saint holding a mask. At the foot of the statue were envelopes addressed to St. Jude, most of them saying something like "Help me." There was also a picture of a young Latino man, someone who I think died of AIDS propped up against the legs of the saint. Most of the messages were in Spanish.
Since I know nothing about Catholic saints, I suppose I could have asked who this guy was, but it seemed to kind of speak for itself. Growing up Baptist, these kinds of statues were meaningless to us. Still, I thought he cut a very striking figure. I liked it.
We also, for good luck, decided to go by the 47th St. Theatre, home of The Last Session. Out front was a group of people. Inside they were performing a staged reading of Stephen Schwartz's children's musical, "Capt. Louie," which had just started. They let us crawl up into the balcony and watch. (It was a very sweet piece and the kids in the cast were fantastic. However, the warm balcony, the stress of the last week, that upper balcony seat was feeling really comfy and I'm afraid I fell asleep. My naptime urges can withstand earthquakes).
Jim with Kris Stewart, E.D. of NYMF.
After the show, we stayed and talked to friends, reconnecting with some people we hadn't seen in years. Naturally we pushed our show. Soon it was time to head down to 37th street.
The Belt Theatre.
Poster in the window.
We checked the books going in. We had 50! Since the theatre capacity is 54, that means we were going to play to a full house. Oh, my god. We were selling tickets! We looked at the names on the list. Good lord. There are famous names on this list. Producers, music industry people, Broadway stars. Well, the "man in the street" might not know about our show but clearly someone in the industry was spreading the word.
The reaction was explosive. Once again, from the opening line, they were all the way with us. Laughing out loud. Stopping the show with applause. Crying in act two. The silent moments were dead silent. The tender moments brought sniffles. The punchlines kicked ass. The songs seem to soar.
Afterwards, we stood out on the sidewalk as always and greeted everyone leaving the theatre. The celebrity list was amazing. Tommy Tune had another event, but he was there for act one and said he loved it. Brian Stoke Mitchell, the biggest leading man on Broadway, was there. Lee Tannen, Lucille Ball's friend and author. Marge Champion. Jason Stuart. Kurt Peterson.
Kurt Peterson (original cast of Sondheim's FOLLIES) laughing with
Brian Stokes Mitchell.
A group of BARE fans.
Jimmy speaks with Lee Tannen.
Manager Libby Bush, Marge Champion, Brian Stokes Mitchell,
unknown, Madeleine Gilford (Jack Gilford's widow).
Maggie and Herb Heineman.
Maggie is one of my heroes.
All during the receiving line, people kept saying, "Everyone is talking about your show! You're the buzz of New York!"
They are? We are?
© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.