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14 August 2002

The Big Voice:  God or Merman is described as a story of two men who went looking for God and found Ethel Merman instead.

Steve has been writing the music for this show for years, though he didn’t know it at first.  But as he began to look at the music he had been writing lately, most of which had something to do with a quest for meaning in his life, a search for God, if there is a God, (or perhaps a search for spirituality), he began to realize that there might be a show in it.  Not exactly a sequel to The Last Session, but something completely different.

The show has gone through countless incarnations, from a review that promised that God will actually appear on the stage, using a cast of thousands (ok—dozens), special effects….glitz! glamour! God!, to something significantly more simple.  When Steve’s life partner, actor/playwright Jim Brochu began looking at plot points (script ideas), the thing began to flow.  It’s now the autobiography of two guys, each on his own quest for faith, looking for answers to questions, and searching for meaning to life, how their paths crossed, and how they finally found their “simple faith” (the title of a song not in the show at present, but which neatly sums up the basic story, and which may yet be worked into the show).

The plan was for this show to be given once, at the lovely Laguna theatre (a significantly longer drive from LA than I realized) and see if anybody came and if there was any audience response. 

As the discussion about the show built up on The Last Session e-mail list, and as I knew that my own song, “Us Catholics” was to be a part of it, I knew that I had to be there.   Crazy to spend money to fly to LA overnight, but I couldn’t not be there. 

Dr. G very nicely agreed not to schedule patients on Monday and to give me the day off.  My friend Michael suggested I fly down a day early so he and I could hang out together (and when I learned about the Judy Garland exhibit, I was thrilled that there would be enough time for us to go together, since we’re both “Judy queens.”)

So Sunday was devoted to hanging out, and going to Southern Baptist Sissies and Monday morning was for Judy and Hollywood. 

Monday night was The Big Voice.

When I last left this saga, we had just left Fox studios and were headed to Laguna Beach.  I’d never been in this little beach town, with a lighthouse built into the side of a cliff, beautiful homes hugging the sides of the cliff, or perched on top, little theatres and art shops galore, a lovely beach, and a good “vacation hideaway” (or a place to live if you’re filthy rich).

We stopped at the theatre when we first arrived and I made sure that Steve arranged for me to take pictures of the show.  I didn't want a repeat of the fiasco in Cincinnati last year, when I tried to take pictures for him and got in trouble with theatre management.  It was fun seeing Steve before the show because he was so enthusiastic about my weight loss.  I hadn’t seen him since Rochester and that was lots of pounds ago.  

 Michael and I left the theatre and met Maggie and another friend, Sonia, down at an outdoor beach food court, where we had a lovely Mexican dinner (good Bev—I stayed on my diet, with a piece of grilled salmon and lots of veggies). 

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And then the show. 

For one thing, the ~400 seat house was about 2/3 full.  A wonderfully gratifying house.  While  lot of the “regulars” in Steve’s “claque” weren’t there, some diehards were, but even better were how many unfamiliar faces were there.  It’s like going to a Lamplighter show and not knowing anybody in the audience—which means the word is spreading and other people are discovering what you’ve known all along.

tbv-1.JPG (43970 bytes) The show itself was amazing.   Steve and Jimmy telling of their mutual backgrounds (Steve wanting to be a Baptist minister; Jimmy wanting to be Pope) and the various stops along the way—in song, anectdote, a bit of exaggerating and manipulation to make it all work.  And of course Jimmy singing my song (OK—so Steve wrote the music…and Jimmy adapted some of the lyrics to suit the timeframe in which he was singing, but I still think of it as my song!).  Act 1 ends with their fateful meeting on board a cruise ship, and Jimmy’s invitation to Steve to move in with him.

Act 2 begins 17 years later, 17 years during which they have moved to California, acquired two cats, and been committed to each other—and the cats.  There are bumps in the road—Steve’s diagnosis of AIDS and how they coped, writing The Last Session, a brief period when they went their separate ways, and all bringing them up to today.  There was lots of laughter, some sniffling during the emotional parts, and a well-earned standing ovation at the end. 


It’s a wonderful show.   And, thankfully, it will have more life than this one night.  The director, who owns a theatre in LA (much closer to Burbank airport!) is going to run it three weekends in September—and since I will just happen to be down there one of those weekends, for a bridal shower, I will probably have an opportunity to see it again.  There is even talk of perhaps bringing it to San Francisco for a few performances.

 It’s that good.


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(Steve says the word "AIDS" for the first time.)


 It probably won’t change people’s lives like The Last Session did, but who can create a miracle like that twice?  This is a solid, funny, emotional, highly entertaining show and I’m hoping that it has at least a decent life.

Critic’s rating (I couldn’t help myself!): 

5 stars


When the show was over, Steve announced a special surprise birthday party for Jimmy and everyone had champagne and birthday cake.  There was hugging all around....

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...we collected $300 worth in CD sales (Steve donates the proceeds to Youth Guardian Services, an on-line "safe place" for gay teens), and then that long, nightmare of a ride home on the 405, which was a parking lot for the better part of an hour.

What a wonderful way to spend a Monday evening, even if I did have to be at the Burbank airport at 5:30 a.m. and pay $40 for a cab ride to the office when I got to Sacramento!!

(Oh--and Dr. G not only brought me some breakfast, he also made me a delicious lunch and drove me home after work, since I didn't have a car and it was a bazillion degrees outside.)

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Thank you for nominating my entry, Moving On for a DiaristNet award!

Quote of the Day

Always give them the old fire, even when you feel like a squashed cake of ice.

-Ethel Merman

Picture of the Day

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(one tired puppy--sleeping on the 405)

One Year Ago
Picture Perfect
And I wish that that was the last memory of my brother Dave, but it wasn't. It was when he was swollen and bloodied in a hospital room. And although I do admit it was a little white lie, there is a part of me that still does believe--he looked picture perfect.
(quote by Paul...this entry is mostly Paul)

Two Years Ago
Touched by an Angel
I only met an angel once, that I’m sure of. And did I really? I don’t know--but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Pounds Lost:  72.2
(this figure is updated on Tuesdays)

NOTE:  This is a 0.8 lb gain; I'll talk about that tomorrow.

On the Odometer:  497.4

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