The photos show a smiling man, and always a bit of a twinkle in his eyes. Stoughton area musician and artist Jay Lechler appears to fill every picture with a strong presence portrayed to those on the outside; yet struggled for years with bipolar disease on the inside. Jackie Bradley, one of Jay’s best friends, says, “Jay lived with depression until he couldn’t live with it any longer.” He died by suicide in 2012. Jay was just 30 years old. Those photos I described are from Jay’s memorial service, and the Beecher quote, “What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose,” ended the video shown at his service. But Jackie didn’t want the memory of Jay’s life to end, too. She decided to write a musical to honor what he meant to so many, and to open up the discussion about mental health, and suicide.
To understand the idea for “Comet Boy: A Musical by Jackie Bradley,” you have to know a little more about Jackie and Jay’s relationship. “He was such an artist, creating his own original musical compositions,” Jackie says. “But was also very skilled at sound editing and production. He worked with so many of us, of all ages, and though he was a performer first, he used every skill he had to help the rest of us find our place in life, especially through music.” Jackie is now a musician in her own right, and has a half-dozen albums of original music recorded. She credits meeting Jay, despite a 30+ year difference in age, for making all the difference, and helping her see how she could move from a years long career—Jackie calls it a mismatch—in the medical field, to music. And despite describing herself as a “late bloomer,” she loves what she is doing with her life.
The musical has been a work in progress since Jay’s death. Though Jackie has written songs in the past, this was a whole different endeavor, and it involved more tears, research, hard work, and money than she ever could have anticipated. But it all materialized this summer after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised the cash needed to fund everything associated with the production, including paying the artists involved in it. Jackie had only given herself 30 days to raise the funds. Less than two months later, “Comet Boy” will premiere on stage at The Brink Lounge in Madison.
“It is a powerful production, and the cast of characters bring it to life beautifully,” Jackie says. “Actors include wonderful performer Lucky Vita/Joey Broyles playing Jay, Sarah Whelan is the narrator, and it is directed by Michael Bruno. The band and vocalists include Shawndell Marks, Beth Kille, Jenna Joanis, Jim Smith, and Dan Kennedy. Each person has their own reason for being involved, but almost all have lost someone due to suicide.” Once “Comet Boy” is performed on September 13th, Jackie hopes to find life for it on other stages and other spaces. A mutual love of music brought Jackie and Jay together. “He unlocked the door to my musical creativity, encouraged me to reach higher, and opened my heart and mind to possibilities I never imagined,” Jackie says.
This musical, written by Jackie for Jay, keeps their love of music, alive.(1860) Page Views Comet Boy Online: