Volume 1 Book 9 Episode 9
of Living In The Bonus Round
the online diary of Steve Schalchlin
Life's a Beach (and then you open).
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"She sells T-Cells By the SEA SHORE!"

An Online Diary of the
1998 Laguna Playhouse Production

featuring Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard, Michele Mais, Bob Stillman, Joey Traywick, Positoids, NuBiHes and lavish amounts of love.

Part 9: Well, Did They Walk Out?

Laguna Beach.
First Preview.

Remember yesterday I told you what Andy said about the Laguna preview audiences? That they tend to be very picky and that, no matter what kind of show they are seeing at least 75 people walk out at intermission and never come back? Well, tonight was the night and I wasn't very secure about our chances of keeping them there at all. Here's why:

I didn't want to say anything yesterday because I didn't want to upset the actors but Sunday night's runthrough was one of the nightmare rehearsals that make you want to die. If you go back to May of 1997 -- I think it was May -- where we are the Currican I wrote about one of these rehearsals. It's where you sit there not laughing, not smiling, hating the music and thinking that you are the most talentless human being on the planet with the very worst show ever.

It was bad enough in New York but here, in the El Lay Territory where all my friends are -- where all these amazingly hot songwriters live, where I've been bragging to them and telling them to come see my show, etc. etc. etc. all I could think about was running three blocks into the ocean and swimming to Jakharta and forgetting I ever lived here.

It wasn't anyone's fault, you understand. The poor cast has been working 12 hours a day for two days straight and at that runthrough, they were dog tired. Jimmy said it was like they were swimming in molasses. And if you know anything about comedy, it's all about timing timing timing.

So, anyway, I've just come off this horrible rehearsal, hating everything about the show when Andy announces this thing about preview audiences walking out. I just want to crawl off and die.

Since it's Positoid's last day in town, we decided to take last meal together with Jimmy and Aunt Michael. But Jimmy was too nervous to sit over a meal, so we took him to the theater and then the three of us went to Johnny Rocket's for burgers and malts. Shawn took his camera and we took pictures of the sunset and the three of us at the counter.

Shawn and I also had a great time Monday night which I didn't tell you about. We went to Universal Studios CityWalk -- a touristy thing one does in this town -- to go see the movie BLADE since it was about blood and vampires and superheroes, etc.

Outside the movie house, there was a guy with a cart and he was selling t-shirts and mugs with your face on them. He had a little video camera. You stand in front, he snaps a shot and 10 minutes later, you got a t-shirt. Here's ours:

We are starting a new website called the hemo2homo where we are going to review movies and give positoid opinions. Look out world. Should be a hoot.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Last night. The preview.

I stayed away from the dressing rooms like a good boy. Got a nice pair of tickets for Andy and myself and the Hemo then sat in row G.

It's a weird feeling to be sitting in a seat looking at your program only to look over at the next guy and see that he's reading your bio and discussing you with a companion. "This guy really DOES have AIDS..."
I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked back to see Ted Pichienski (not sure of the spelling) who runs Cherry Lane Music, the company that published the Vocal Selections book! I thanked him for putting out such a lavish book for our little show. He said, "I believe in this show and I just felt the music *had* to be brought to people."

I thanked him and quietly mentioned that a choir arrangment for "When You Care" might be an excellent idea, too. (Okay, so I'm not so subtle...)

Finally, the lights went down, Bob Stillman began "Save Me A Seat" and by the time "Tryshia" arrived followed by "Buddy" and "Vicki," I knew we were in for a good ride. And ride we did. This audience never knew what hit 'em.

By the time Joey finished "Going It Alone" -- and yes, he made it all the way through without losing it... much -- these five actors had the audience in the palm of their hands. Bob told me later he could see a man in the front row just weeping and it reminded him how intense the emotions are in this play.

So, the big moment was on us. Intermission. Would they stay? Would they go? Would we be playing Act Two to an empty room???

The answer is NOOOOO. Nobody left. Act Two was packed and now they were into it. There ain't nuthin better than a skeptical audience that comes back and is ready for a good time. They howled at Vicki and Buddy's exchanges and cheered Maisey's "Singer and the Song."

And I have to say this, too. Bob Stillman was nothing short of brilliant last night. So was everyone else -- don't get me wrong. But somehow, maybe it's because he's coming back into a role he knew before and it's comfortable -- maybe it's because the sound is really good -- maybe it's because of the new energy bringing brought in by Maisey, P.M. and Joey -- but people could NOT stop talking about him last night and it and it was clear that he was really enjoying himself.

Joey was also kicking ass last night.

Joey has a remarkable vocal instrument and he knows how to use it. But he felt like he had to hold back for some reason on "Going It Alone," trying to duplicate my approach on my Bonus Round CD "...as a tribute to you," he said.

"NO!" I implored him. "The way you pay tribute -- if that's what you want to do -- is to incorporate the song into yourself and interpret according to YOUR feelings and emotions, using the full range of YOUR instrument." (He's such a sweetheart, so eager to please.)

So, yesterday afternoon, Bob and I got him to the piano and just started experimenting with his capabilities. I mean, you don't become Georgia State vocal champion, like he did, for nothing. It was amazing what we found that this boy can do. (This is one of the most exciting things about rehearsing -- learning more of what your performers are capable of).

Well, by the time the show came to a conclusion, the whole audience came up on its collective feet and the cast was shining. Our first time with a real audience and it was like they had done it a thousand times.

Later, the Andy and Rick told us they have never had a standing ovation at a preview before. Not only that, but they sold out their entire stock of CDs in one night!

Tonight, preview No. 2 and then opening night on Thursday -- and you have a ring side seat.

Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

The official stills by Still Productions | Pics by Steve | Cast pics by Steve | Fun pics
LA Times Review | TLS fan club page with pictures | L.A. critics quotes page
"From Hate To Humanity" | TLS Fan Chat Room | BennyTour fan pics

All photos and text are © 1998 by Steve Schalchlin.