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.

 

davis-duffield

jack-noseworthy

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: ★★
   
   

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