Here's the picture of the fireplace wall now that the sheetrock has been installed. We wanted to protect the brick, so painting over it was out. Sheetrock only took a few tiny screws, and most of them are where the crown molding will sit anyway. I'm lovin' how it looks already.
The installer did an excellent job. Everything is very smooth and we won't need trim in a couple of places that we might have had to use it. That's the beauty of hiring (and finding) people who are really good at what they do. Next I will prime it and paint it. The crown molding will go back up at the top and the carpenter will work his magic on the area below the mantel. I'll keep you posted!