Artist: Original Broadway Cast Recording
Label: PS Classics
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 clichés of physicality is perfection. And when they sing together, it is musical theatre heaven.
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.
(Photo by Aaron Epstein: Left: Malcolm Gets; Right: Will Chase)