Partners in life as well as in stage and song, Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin have made fantastic theater out of the drama of their lives with the autobiographical musical The Big Voice: God or Merman? Brooklynite Brochu and rural-boy Schalchlin each grew up with designs on the ministry (or more precisely, its spectacle). Each searched for a calling—that titular “Big Voice”—illustrating how complex a negotiation the relationship with God can be for gay men. Their moral is a grand one: Whatever inspires joyous, reverent passion in you, therein lies your religion.
But that’s not why people will rave about this simply staged yet intricately written production. They’ll be in it for the one-liners, which consistently score high on the LOL-meter. (The best, referencing a surprise AIDS-deathbed visit from Happy Days‘ Anson Williams: “I decided to live that day—because I didn’t want the last celebrity I ever saw to be Potsie.”) The dry Schalchlin gesticulates stiffly, but Brochu, a fussily gregarious Zero Mostel type, is his ideal foil, and the pair’s cruise-ship courting scene plays marvelously, with laughs and heart to spare. And the resolving ballad “How Do You Fall Back in Love” could have been better sung but hardly better voiced. The Ethel queens win this round.