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The Big Voice: God or Merman?

A musical comedy with a big heart

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Through Aug. 19. Tickets are $25-30; call 861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org.
New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (between Oak and Fell), S.F.

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I have been reminded that it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, if you're young or old, or if there's a fancy set or a bare stage — an amazing love story transcends it all. The Big Voice: God or Merman? proves this point nicely. After a successful off-Broadway run, Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchin bring their small and truly moving autobiographical show to the New Conservatory Theatre. Billed as a "musical comedy in two lives," the first act charts their journeys separately until they eventually meet and fall in love on a cruise ship. Brochu employs his broad flamboyant charisma to describe growing up close to the Broadway lights, finding himself caught between being the next pope or a stage queen. He's large and joyously irreverent, and he even comes out in Pope pajamas singing Ethel Merman. It's a wonderful juxtaposition with the quieter and thinner Schalchin, who often sits behind his keyboard softly singing original ballads detailing his uncomfortable youth growing up in Arkansas as a Baptist. They have an Abbot & Costello chemistry that only gets better when the shock and anger of AIDS darkens their relationship. After the show the two actors retire to the lobby and offer hugs and handshakes to audience members — a completely fitting gesture after spending a fun and intimate two hours together.

 
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