The Last Session is an off-Broadway musical about a singer/songwriter who has decided to commit suicide to end his battle with AIDS, but only after one last recording session in the studio. The show is heavily influenced with themes of love, religion and acceptance. The story is loosely based on the life of Steve Schalchlin, who wrote the gospel-inspired music while partner Jim Brochu is credited with writing the dialogue -- additional lyrics by John Bettis & Marie Cain. With a cult following, based largely on one of the pioneering blogs to hit the internet, the show achieved remarkable success, given the relative obscurity of its creators. It has received numerous awards and continues to be produced in various parts of the country.
"The Last Session" was originally produced off-Broadway at the 47th Street Theatre in 1997. The cast consisted of Bob Stillman as "Gideon," an ex-gospel singer turned pop star who has scheduled a final recording session. He invites his old band to join him including professional back-up singer Tryshia (Grace Garland), failed rock singer turned Mary Kay Cosmetics salesperson, Vicki (Amy Coleman), studio engineer Jim (Dean Bradshaw) and, unexpectedly, a young Texas gospel singer, Buddy (Stephen Bienskie). Buddy has idolized Gideon his entire lifetime and has come to Los Angeles to meet him and to follow in his footsteps to cross over from gospel to pop. His world is shaken when, during the course of the session, he learns Gideon is both gay and has AIDS.
An original cast album was recorded with elaborate packaging and a vocal selections book was published by Cherry Lane Music. The show was nominated for Best Musical by the NY Drama League and the NY Outer Critics Circle.
A subsequent production in Los Angeles began at the Laguna Playhouse and then transferred to the Tiffany Theatre on Sunset Blvd. It featured two cast members from New York, Bob Stillman & Amy Coleman. New cast members included Michelle Mais playing Tryshia, P.M. Howard and Joel Traywick (who went on to receive the Theatre LA Ovation Award for Best Actor).
and the following awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle:
The show continues to receive productions including such cities as Baltimore, Rochester NY, Dallas (which also recorded a cast album), Omaha, Denver, Chicago and Indianapolis (which also recorded their own cast album). A site is maintained at http://www.thelastsession.com and its creators, Jim Brochu & Steve Schalchlin have created another award winning musical (which, among other things, traces the history of The Last Session) called "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" (http://www.thebigvoice.com). Composer Steve Schalchlin still maintains his online diary called "Living In The Bonus Round" at http://www.bonusround.com and playwright/actor Jim Brochu's website is http://www.jimbrochu.com.