A New England theater describes The Big Voice, an award-winning musical, like this:
The Big Voice is an American story. Jim, a Catholic who dreamed of being the first Brooklyn born Pope, and Steve, a Baptist preacher’s kid from Arkansas who meet in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, fall in love and live to sing about it.
Future Pontiff Jimmy describes his vivid childhood journey to Lourdes and Rome, followed by his disappointment that that he didn’t hear “The Big Voice.” Then, a random act changes his life. At the age of 13, he sees a performance of Gypsy with Ethel Merman, meets her backstage and his life is changed forever.
We learn about Steve’s life through songs. After Jimmy tells his story of almost meeting the Pope, Steve sings a song about almost meeting a famous evangelist. As Jimmy tells of being gay in a military boarding school, Steve sings of hiding in a redneck country high school.
The musical traces their meeting aboard a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, about their marriage, their interplay with Steve’s family, their struggle with disease, the writing of a hit musical, their personal separation, their rapprochement (“The divorce failed!”), and finally, the realization that people “affect the course of each other lives and never even know it,” illustrated by a dramatic moment in front of a religious picket line where a woman thanks them because something they wrote changed her life.
While two XGW authors were vigiling in Palm Springs, Calif., last weekend, two others were seeing TBV at a theater in Norwich, Conn. We laughed, and some cried, from start to finish. Afterward, we met our old friend Steve Schalchlin, co-writer and musical director of TBV.
One of the purposes of “Big Voice” is to let people see what a real gay marriage looks like, warts and all. We’re just people, folks. You can lay down your weapons now. We promise we won’t invade your homes the way you’re invading ours.
The Big Voice runs in Norwich through Sept. 30; it is scheduled to open in New York later this year.