Thursday, September 24, 2009

CD Review: The Story of My Life

Back when next to normal was going into the Longacre and blocking off the balcony, there was another new musical at the Booth Theatre, The Story of My Life. Actually, this little show was my second favorite of the season, after n2n. There are those who argue that it was too small; are two-man shows somehow less than one-man shows? Defending the Caveman ran forever... Then there are those who say it was too sentimental; since when is that a bad thing, especially in a time when everyone is so down? And a show about the real depth of honest male to male friendships is one territory rarely explored in any medium, unless it is about gayness. And there are those who argue that it really is about latent homosexual feelings. I disagree. But that argument is for another time. Thanks to the theatre gods above, they saw fit to capture the sweet music and lyrics and the wonderfully imaginative and heart-warming/heart-breaking performances of Malcolm Gets and Will Chase on an Original Cast Recording. Since you likely didn't see this (yet- I bet there will be tons of local productions), I'd strongly suggest getting this CD at

Title: The Story of My Life
Artist: Original Broadway Cast Recording
Label: PS Classics
Number: PS-981
Format: Single CD
Case: Jewel Case
Booklet: Full color production photos; Full Liner Notes

The Show Itself: The first new musical of 2009, The Story of My Life, should have been a crowd-pleaser, but it is a dicey proposition. For the critics, cynical as they can be, the sentimentality of the piece might work against it, and the subject matter - male friendship - might make a few squirm as it will likely hit them in a private spot that they will grumpily try to put back in hiding.

The Company: Will Chase, as Thomas Weaver, has the less sympathetic role, as the guy who leaves town, leaves his friend and never really looks back. The other part of the equation, Malcolm Gets , as Alvin Kelby, has, on the surface of it, an easier time getting the audience to root for him. Clearly, his character is the wronged one, the orphan, the abandoned one who never leaves his small town. Separately they are terrific, but together they soar - a musical pairing unseen since Side Show. Their chemistry will undoubtedly be touched upon in reviews. Their ability to progress (and regress) from ages six to thirty-something, without resorting to voices or overdone clich├ęs of physicality is perfection. And when they sing together, it is musical theatre heaven.

The Book and Score: The key to any really good theatre is the story (book by Brian Hill, lyrics by Neil Bartram), and this one is great. It is familiar in a universal way, using details and nuances to make it unique, and the way the story is told is both artistic and natural. Mr. Bartram's music and lyrics are deceptively simple. They are easy to follow, the melodies are theme and emotion appropriate, but not a strain to digest, and each song tells a great mini-story as part of the whole. Mr. Hill's book is equally as clever. It is kept simple, but is always surprising.

The Recording: It is a small miracle that this show was recorded, given its short run on Broadway; we should all be very thankful that it was preserved. I can't say it enough about this season's recordings, and The Story of My Life is no exception: the quality of the recording and the performances are exceptional. As the show itself had so little to look at, it was easier to become fully emotionally connected to the words, sounds and performances in the theatre. The recording then becomes more of a reminder than a separate experience. Like in the theatre, the stories each song tells sweeps you away in a swirl of personal memories, even as the immediate story comes into High Definition clarity in your mind as the performance unfolds. Both Mr. Gets and Mr. Chase replicate their outstanding stage work here - the emotions and nuances are rich and plentiful, and the orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick are lovely. Noted theatre critic Peter Filicia has provided an astute and fair essay for the liner notes and the booklet, which, even without the lyrics (which are unnecessary, as the songs are memorable in spite of it), but full of terrific production photos give the recording and the show its due, finally.

Standout Songs:
As in the show, "Mrs. Remington," "The Butterfly," "1876" and "Angels in the Snow" stand out, and find themselves on my constant rotation of songs from the season.

Grade: A+

(Photo by Aaron Epstein: Left: Malcolm Gets; Right: Will Chase)

If you saw this and/or got the CD, drop me a line...let me know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. I love this show! Haven't felt so excited since discovered Stoppard in college.


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