Jim Brochu

Character-man-jim-brochu

 

Jim Brochu is the only actor in America to have won the New York Drama Desk Award, the Washington, DC Helen Hayes Award, the Los Angeles Ovation Award, the South Florida Carbonell Award and the Palm Springs Desert Star Award, all for Best Actor in a Play.

On Broadway he has appeared as Andrew McLaren in Brigadoon opposite Christine Ebersole and Len Cariou and as Mr. Brownlow in Oliver! opposite Brian Stokes Mitchell’s Fagin. In Washington, DC he played Willy Clark opposite Theodore Bikel’s Al Lewis in Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys and most recently, he starred in the major Off-Broadway revivals of The Man Who Came To Dinner as Sheridan Whiteside and as Sir in the Newley-Bricusse musical, The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd.

Over the past few years, Jim has been leading a double life – both as himself and as the great Zero Mostel in his multi-award winning play, Zero Hour.  Since its premiere in 2006 Jim has been touring the country with the show, racking up over 600 performances, garnering both unanimous critical raves and major theatrical honors.

Prior to taking on Zero, Jim was in New York City starring in his Off-Broadway hit, The Big Voice: God or Merman? which he also wrote. The New York Timescalled it: “Triumphant and side-splitting – a hilarious and utterly enthralling evening of musical theatre.”
In 2005, Jim was nominated again by the Los Angeles Ovation Awards as Best Actor in a Musical for “The Big Voice”, an honor he won from both the Palm Springs Desert Star Awards and the Valley Theatre League ADA Awards. “The Big Voice: God or Merman?” was also given the Ovation Award as Best Musical, presented to himself and composer-partner, Steve Schalchlin, by the legendary Jerry Herman.

Jim’s life was forever changed on June 20, 1959 – the day he saw his father’s friend in a show. Dad’s friend was Ethel Merman and the show was Gypsy. When people asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would respond instantly, “A priest!” When Miss Merman asked him that question on the stage of the Broadway Theatre he responded instantly, “An actor!” Merman became a very important part of his life.

A native of Brooklyn, Jim produced his first show two months later, a charity revue featuring the Bay Ridge neighborhood kids named The Flagg Court Follies of 1959.

             After four years at La Salle Military Academy where he was nicknamed Sergeant Bilko, he studied drama at Carnegie-Mellon University, where his classmate was Stephen Schwartz. He returned to New York, received his BA in English from St. Francis College (Brooklyn) and made his Broadway debut (on stage at Town Hall) as Christopher Sly in a very bad revival of The Taming Of The Shrew.

His off-Broadway credits include Berkeley Square with Christopher Reeve at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Robert Lowell’s Endicott And The Red Cross at theAmerican Place Theatre at St. Clement’s, Ephraim Kishon’s Unfair To Goliath at the Cherry Lane, Marvin Gordon’s To Be Or Not To Be… at The Barbizon Plaza; Skye at Lincoln Center and Frank Loesser’s Greenwillow for the Equity Library Theatre.

While working as a young stage actor, he appeared in two legendary television commercials – first as a dancing raisin for Post Raisin Bran and then as the “Lemon from Outer Space” with Madge the Manicurist for Palmolive. His television work includes regular stints as Father James on All My Children, Judge Julius Weyburn on The Young and The Restless, Officer Jerry Chandler on the cult-classic Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and the befuddled bailiff on NBC’s Sirota’s Court with Michael Constantine. Although the part was small, he can also boast that he made his motion picture debut in The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight opposite another newcomer, Robert DeNiro.

His acting career has taken him to regional stages all over the United States and Canada, including the Washington Theatre Club in D.C., the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, The Invisible Theatre in Tucson, two seasons at the Goodspeed Opera House where he originated the role of Flint in Something’s Afoot, Theatre Building Chicago, Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston, the Trinity Arts Center in Dallas and the DejaVu Theatre in Los Angeles – where he won the Backstage West Award as Best Actor for his performance as Marvin in Robert Patrick’s T-Shirts.

While playing Tevye at the Waldo Astoria Dinner Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri – he wrote his first play Cookin’ With Gus which was immediately published by Samuel French and has since been performed all over the United States and has been translated into several languages for productions all over the world. A huge hit in Quebec, Canada; it was recently taped in French by HBO Canada.

One play led to another and soon Jim was writing full time. For the theatre, he has written the comedies The Lucky O’Learys with Kathleen Freeman and Pat Carroll,Fat Chance with Virginia Capers, The Lady Of The House with Rue McClanahan and the off-Broadway smash hit musical, The Last Session, which he also directed.
After The Last Session’s New York run (for which he received Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Nominations), the show was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the ten best plays of the 1998-1999 Los Angeles season, garnering him the Oscar Wilde Award and the GLAAD Media Award. Brochu won another Backstage West Award for his direction of the show, along with the Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle Award as playwright. The Last Session opened in London in October of 2012 where it received rave reviews starring British Pop Star Darren Day.

In 1988 Jim got an offer he couldn’t refuse – a call from his idol, Lucille Ball, who had read his play The Lucky O’Learys and thought it would be perfect for herself and Audrey Meadows. By the time he finished writing the pilot for 20th Century Fox, Miss Ball was not up to doing the project and it never developed. However, what did develop was a deep friendship between Ball and Brochu that resulted in them spending almost every afternoon together until she died in 1989. Jim chronicled Lucy’s life as she told it to him over the backgammon table in his book, Lucy In The Afternoon, published by William Morrow, Pocketbooks in paperback and was named as an alternate selection by The Literary Guild Book Club.

His latest show, Character Man, is a musical tribute to his Broadway mentors David Burns, Cyril Ritchard, Jack Albertson, Jack Gilford and Lou Jacobi. Jim has also headlined at some of New York City’s greatest nightclubs including Feinstein’s, Birdland and 54 Below.

Jim currently lives in his home town New York City where, between theatrical assignments, he travels on the great cruise ships all over the world performing and lecturing about Broadway, Hollywood and the stars with whom he has worked.
He is an active member of the Dramatists Guild, the Screen Actors Guild, Actors Equity Association and remains, as the New York Times called him, a true “Man Of The Theatre”. His caricature hangs on the wall of the legendary Sardi’s Restaurant in New York next to his mentor David Burns, a singular tribute to a forty year show business career as an actor and playwright.

 

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