REVIEW: The Story of My Life (Chicago Muse)


Strong performances buried under clichéd story

 the story of my life - poster

Chicago Muse presents
The Story of My Life
Music/Lyrics by Neil Bartram
Book by
Brian Hill
Directed by
Richard Maltby, Jr.
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
through January 2  |  tickets: $46-$56  |  more info 

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

The inaugural production of new company Chicago Muse, The Story of My Life was voted the best new musical of twelve read by a committee of theater patrons and professionals. Walking out of the Biograph Theater, I couldn’t help but wonder what those other shows were, that they couldn’t beat Bartram and Hill’s uninspired musical. Chronicling the friendship between recently deceased Alvin (Davis Duffield) and his estranged best friend Thomas (Jack Noseworthy), The Story of My Life tries to fit as many clichés as possible in its 90 minute running time.




Thomas, a renowned novelist, struggles to write Alvin’s eulogy, and as he recalls the history of their relationship he learns to appreciate the role Alvin played in his creative success. The characters share an affinity for Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” and Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and the show’s book is heavily influenced by both iconic American creators. Alvin and Clarence are Clarence and George, watching the events of the past, or Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, secretly spying on funerals. What they’re not is captivating characters, and their relationship is as unbelievable as it is unoriginal.

Once the pair grows into adolescence it becomes difficult to believe that the charming, collected Thomas would maintain a friendship with the socially awkward Alvin, who still dresses as the ghost of his dead mother for Halloween (yes…still). As adults, the two men sing songs about butterflies and snow angels to recall the times they shared as children, but the result is so cheesy that it’s hard to take seriously.

The conflict of the latter half is basically the two falling out of touch because Thomas avoids Alvin, which doesn’t translate to very compelling theater yet takes up a large chunk of time. By the time Thomas finally realizes Alvin was his inspiration all along, which the audience knew five minutes into the show, the production has already lost most of its momentum, despite the efforts of its talented stars.

Both the story and music of The Story of My Life owe much to Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park with George. Merrily’s theme of friends and their influence on an individual’s creative growth is combined with Sunday’s meditations on the limits artists place on themselves, and both shows’ musical themes are reflected in Bartram’s score. The general lack of originality drags down the show, even though.Duffield and Noseworthy are capable performers, with Noseworthy hitting some particularly difficult notes with fantastic clarity and power. They try their hardest to make their characters realistic, but the source material’s flaws overcome their respective efforts. While the two actors never miss a beat, the beats are so derivative that, unfortunately, their talent is wasted.

Rating: ★★

 Extra Credit:


Creative Team Bios


Davis Duffield: Broadway: Cyrano De Bergerac with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. Other Regional and Off-Broadway: Becky Shaw at the Actors Theater of Louisville’s Humana Festival, Ghosts at Berkeley Rep, Choreographer David Gordon’s Uncivil Wars at both the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and Peak Performances in Montclair New Jersey,All’s Well that Ends Well at California Shakespeare Theater, Chasing Nicolette at The Prince Music Theater, Secret Order at Merrimack Rep, stirring at 59E59/Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and Mirette at the The York/Goodspeed Opera House. Film: Unbreakable, Quality of Life, Freegan Love, Wilderness. Television: As The World Turns, Law & Order, andCyrano de Bergerac as part of the “Great Performances” series on PBS. MFA from A.C.T. More info at

Jack Noseworthy: Born and raised in Massachusetts, Noseworthy received his BFA from The Boston Conservatory in 1987. A triple threat, Noseworthy has starred in films, television and Broadway. He began his career on stage in the national tour of the musical "Cats." He made his Broadway debut in the original company of "Jerome Robbins Broadway," was the final actor to be cast in the recent revival of "A Chorus Line" and played opposite John Lithgow in the Broadway musical "Sweet Smell Of Success." In addition to his New York stage work, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics prize and a Drama-Logue Award as Best Actor for his starring role as Alan Strang in the critically acclaimed Los Angeles production of "Equus." This summer he stared as Pip in the TONY winning Utah Shakespearean Festival’s production of “Great Expectations, The Musical”, as well as Mr. Charles Bingly, in “Pride & Prejudice”. In the motion picture arena, he has worked with director Jonathan Mostow, five times time in his career. Most recently on the Bruce Willis action thriller “The Surrogates”, as well as, "Breakdown," "U-571," the FOX Network’s extraterrestrial thriller "Them" and his cameo in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (DVD cut only).

Jack’s other feature film credits include the independent favorites, "Pretty Ugly People" and "Phat Girlz,” as well as, "Undercover Brother," "Poster Boy," "Unconditional Love," "Event Horizon," "The Brady Bunch Movie," "Barb Wire," "Trigger Effect," "Cecil B. DeMented," "Alive" and "Encino Man," his movie debut. In addition to his longtime association with Mostow, Noseworthy’s resume also boasts affiliations with directors such as P.J Hogan, Paul Anderson, Betty Thomas, David Koepp and John Waters. On television, Noseworthy recently starred in the Hallmark-Hall-Of-Fame western "Aces ‘N Eights" and appeared opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the CBS EMMY winning miniseries "Elvis," played Sissy Spacek’s son in “A Place For Annie,” and Anne Bancroft’s fantasy obsession in “Mrs. Cage”.

Richard Maltby, Jr.: (Director) BROADWAY: Conceived and directed two Tony Award winning musicals: AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (1978: Tony, N.Y. Drama Critics, Outer Critics, Drama Desk Awards — also Tony Award for Best Director.) FOSSE (1999: Tony, Outer Critics, Drama Desk Awards); and RING OF FIRE, The Johnny Cash Musical Show, (2006). With composer David Shire, director/lyricist: BABY, (1983, book by Sybille Pearson; seven Tony Award nominations); lyricist: BIG, (1996, book by John Weidman; Tony nomination: Best Score); lyricist/conceiver, TAKE FLIGHT (book by John Weidman), world premiere 2007 at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London, also produced in Japan 2007, American premiere May 7, 2010 McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. With Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, co-lyricist: MISS SAIGON (Evening Standard Award 1990; Tony nomination: Best Score, 1991); co-bookwriter/lyricist: THE PIRATE QUEEN (2007). Director, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (2009). Director/co-lyricist: American version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s SONG & DANCE, (1986 Tony Award for star, Bernadette Peters.) OFF-BROADWAY: director/lyricist STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW, (1977, Grammy nomination) and CLOSER THAN EVER, (1989, two Outer Critics Circle Awards: Best Musical, Best Score), both written with composer David Shire. REGIONAL: director, THE STORY OF MY LIFE (2008, Goodspeed Opera House); director, MASK (2008, Pasadena Playhouse); director, THE 60’S PROJECT (2006, Goodspeed). FILM: Screenplay, MISS POTTER, (2007) about Beatrix Potter, starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor (Christopher Award, best screenplay.). Thirty year association with The Manhattan Theatre Club. Contributes devilish crossword puzzles to Harpers Magazine. Son of well-known orchestra leader; Five children: Nicholas, David, Jordan, Emily and Charlotte.


One Response

  1. This show is an ‘Alvin’. I liken this production to one of its main characters. It is a likeable, loyal and quirky friend whose presence is taken for granted. And I am saddened that because this show has been panned by several critics as cliché that many theater-goers might choose not to see this show. Sadly, when critics dismissed it on Broadway, it lasted only 5 performances.

    But it is the show’s sappy, sentimentality that is its charm. I mean what do you expect with a musical titled “The Story of My Life”? You just know that the premise requires the main character to evaluate his life and to review the important relationships that forged it. And that’s exactly what you get with this two-man show. It is a tale of a friendship that has defined the two main character’s lives. The two actors, played thoughtfully by Davis Duffield and Jack Noseworthy, incarnate characters that endear themselves to the audience. And two notable emotional ballads superbly sung by the actors, “Mrs. Remington” and “The Butterfly”, should not be missed.

    I would strongly encourage Chicago theater audiences to check out this production before its run ends. The thing is, if this show were a movie, it would probably not do well during its theater release, but I think that it would have a cult following and would probably even be part of one’s Home DVD collection. But since it’s a stage production, once the curtain finally comes down, it’s gone. And if you didn’t see it, your loss.

    It’s good that the show has found a tender spot in the hearts of Chicago Muse. Perhaps by staging the musical here in Chicago, it may find a more receptive audience untainted by cynicism and stoicism. No offense, NYC.

    [And for those cynical people out there, I just want to say, I am not affiliated with the show or Chicago Muse in any way. I am not the parent of one of the performers or a financial backer of the production. I am just a person who initially saw the reviews for the show and was discouraged, but went to see it last night anyway because my friend had tickets. Although, I am posting this response in several other blogs.]

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