If you have not heard of Jim
Brochu, and you love show biz, you must get to see “Character Man!” It is playing in a tiny theater on West 30th
Street only until March 30! Some of my
audience may remember me reviewing his one-man show, “Zero,” in which he portrayed Zero Mostel and the many facets of
the life of this great actor, who suffered through the blacklisting era. Brochu, a big man, looked just like Mostel
and the show was fascinating.
Now, in “Character Man,” which Brochu also
wrote, he is playing himself. His white hair neatly combed, dressed in grey
slacks, a navy blazer, red tie and pocket handkerchief to match, he doesn't
look anything like Zero Mostel. For one and one half hours without
intermission, directed by Robert Bartley, accompanied by an excellent pianist,
Carl Haan, he sings the songs of Broadway and tells the stories of many
character actors, but most particularly his dad's best friend, David Burns.
Burns, a Tony award winner for Best Featured Actor in “Music Man” and “A Funny
Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” was Brochu's mentor. Among his many roles, Burns
originated the part of Horace Vendergelder in “Hello Dolly” with Carol Channing, worked with Jackie Gleason,
and won kudos for his extraordinary performance in Arthur Miller's “The Price.” He died of a heart attack
on stage in Philadelphia on March 12, 1971. (We saw this play on that
anniversary, March 12: an emotional time.)
Burns was a kind man and
arranged for Jim Brochu, when he was only 15, to sell orange soda at the Alvin
Theatre where “Forum” had
opened. This was the beginning of his love affair with theater. He could watch
the show, and hang out in Burns' dressing room afterward meeting and listening
to actors like Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford and John Carradine. What a thrill!
The most interesting aspect
of “Character Man” is Jim
Brochu's description of his father and their relationship. Brochu's mother died
from a heart condition when he was very young. His handsome, charming dad
raised him; although he was a raging alcoholic, especially on Friday nights,
Brochu faces this with love, without bitterness, as some might. Amazingly, his
dad dated Joan Crawford for several years!
Man” is a tribute to Jim Brochu's dad and
his best friend, David Burns, and to show business at its best done with humor
S. Three family plays at Urban Stages: For ages 6 to 12 Sunday March 23,” Lucy's Question” and March 30 “The Last Pine Tree on Eagle Mountain.” Phone
212-421-1380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.