Not being a fan of rock music and not overly fond of Rent, I went with great trepidation to see Steve Schachlin and Jim Brochu's off-Broadway musical, The Last Session. What made this more difficult was that Steve and I are friends, he's even penned this column a few times. What if I hated the show?
Since first hearing about The Last Session, I thought the idea was intriguing and it just might work if it had a decent book, assuming Steve's music was any good. (Steve's "unabashed plugging" of the show has appeared on our forum here from time to time.)
I went to the TKTS booth in Duffy Square and got two tickets. While in line I "sold" five other people tickets to the show. In my pitch, I said, "Well, it's about this guy dying of AIDS and he has a recording session... and I hear it's really good." Then I quoted Liz Smith, the Times and a few others. Now, I'm really going out on a limb. Hell, I didn't even know if I was going to like it. But something told me long ago that this show was special.
The lights dim and we meet Gideon, the keyboardist who is planning the last night of his life. Bob Stillman plays the role. From his opening address to Jack when he begins on the keyboard, something happens and it's almost hard to put into words. It's magic because you know Gideon's lyrics have been written from truth and over the footlights you are exposed to someone's soul. Stillman, a veteran of many Broadway shows, delivers one knockout performance.
Now, lest you think this is one more musical about AIDS and that it's very depressing, forget about it. Jim Brochu has written a book with some of the best dialogue and one line zingers that had me laughing my ass off.
The cast they have put together is simply superb. Along with Stillman is Dean Bradshaw, Grace Garland, Amy Coleman and Stephen Bienskie. It's very difficult to single any of them out as they all have wonderful voices which compliment each other.
With all it's humour, it's the lyrics that tell the story. And at times that story will destroy you. One moment you're laughing, the next bawling like a baby. It's a rollercoaster emotional ride with an uplifting finish.
The theater was sold out at the performance I saw. At the curtain call, the entire audience rose to its feet immediately and gave a rousing, well deserved standing ovation. Afterwards, the cast autographed CD's in the lobby. On the way out, the people I coaxed into coming see the show over at the TKTS booth came up and thanked me. Another audience member, on spotting my Talkin' Broadway jacket said "Oh gosh, I visit Talkin' Broadway all the time." Ya' hear that Schachlin and Broshu? I want to be put on commission!
I asked someone on staff if the show would be playing beyond February 9th and was told that it will run until March 1st. Over at Barrymores I heard that there is some Broadway buzz in the air as a very big bigwig took a group of 25 to see the show recently, and they loved it. So, who knows the future of this production? Until March 1st, though, if you want to see a piece of brilliant theater, head over to the 47th Street Theater. The Last Session is everything I hoped it would be, and more.
What a week! Now, it's off to meet that princess of pizzazz, Christina D'Angelo, and head over to the press opening of Paul Simon's new musical, The Capeman. Christina will have the review for you on Thursday. I was up until 2 A.M. trading theater stories with Broadway buddies over at Barrymores. Oh, the dirt!
See you Thursday!
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