Book by Brian Hill
Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Produced by Chicago Muse
At Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre
Stunningly moving, heartfelt chamber musical is a marvelous art piece
Their initial production by Chicago Muse is a retooled and revised chamber musical – The Story of My Life – that lasted only 5 performances on Broadway in 2009. I’m utterly amazed by that since the new version I saw at Victory Gardens Biograph was a heartfelt, charming, intimate two-hander musical that the opening night audience enjoyed. By the end, there was hardly a dry eye. The Story of My Life is beautiful operetta filled with smart, witty lyrics and soothing music (both by Neil Bartram) that garnered empathy from Brian Hill’s fine book.
The press notes state: “The Story of My Life tells the story of two childhood friends and how their friendship profoundly defined their lives. Thomas Weaver(Jack Noseworthy) is a best-selling, award-winning author. Alvin Kelby (Davis Duffield) was his best friend for 30 years. But time can test the bonds of friendship, and when it does, Thomas calls on the only resource he has – his stories of Alvin—to learn where things went wrong. A richly melodic musical, The Story of My Life is a soaring tribute to the power of friendship and the people who change our lives forever.”
I totally agree with the above synopsis and let me add that the sincere work from Duffield and Noseworthy hooked us early on as I enjoy the look back on Alvin and Thomas’ lives that was deftly delivered through a smart series of talk-songs (think William Finn). This heart wrenching story is a non-sexual male to male loves story wherein Alvin and Thomas exceed mere friendship. They have a special complex bond that links then forever.
We realize that Alvin is the eccentric bookstore owner destined to be the ‘George Bailey’ (think “It’s A Wonderful Life”) of the two friends while Thomas attends college and winds up a best-sell award-winning author living in the big city. We understand that Thomas may have been the scribe – the one who wrote the stories – but Alvin was the muse whose imagination inspired Thomas. Without becoming too sentimental, The Story of My Life weaves thirty years of friendship through a series of flashbacks that examines how and why things do go wrong in a friendship. We see Thomas struggling to write a proper eulogy to his dear friend. The power and depth of friendship and love defines this wonderful musical with special tribute to the dynamics of the human spirit.
The fine orchestra – a piano, clarinet. oboe and cello under Roberta Duchak’s exquisite musical direction both set the tone (with some excellent Clarinet work by Rick Kissinger) and accompanied the vocals. Davis Duffield, as Alvin, was lovable and most empathic while Jack Noseworthy’s strong voice nicely landed Bartram’s songs. I was especially moved by Noseworthy’s emotional rendering of the ‘Butterfly’ song. With both players on stage throughout the 1 hour, 40 minute show, the stage chemistry was telling and honest. The artistry in this intimate show is subtle yet evocative and its charm wins us throughout. The Story of My Life demonstrates the potential vibrant bond of lifelong friendship. It got me to call an old friend from my youth just to say: “Hello.” Don’t miss this beautiful tribute to true friendship. It’ll renew your faith in humanity. Kudos to Chicago Muse for mounting such a worthy show.
At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60614, 773.871.3000, tickets $46 – $56, Wednesday: 7:30pm,Thursday: 7:30pm,Friday: 7:30pm, Saturday: 3 & 7:30pm, Sunday: 2pm & 6pm, running time is 1 hour 40 minutes without intermission, through january2, 2010