The Story of My Life Cast Recording Cast Recording
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Tony nominee Malcolm Gets (Amour, A New Brain, TV's Caroline in the City) and Will Chase (High Fidelity, Rent, Aida) star in this new musical that follows the contours of a lifelong friendship between two men, Alvin and Thomas, whose childhood bond threads throughout their adult years. THE STORY OF MY LIFE is a Broadway rarity: an intimate musical that candidly explores the simplicity of human need and the complexity of emotions under which it lies buried. Composer-lyricist Neil Bartram and librettist Brian Hill have created an authentic and affecting work, told through a series of songs - in turn playful, touching and dramatic, and expertly orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick. One New York critic predicted, 'When the original cast recording comes out, see if you don't find yourself moved to Google the name of some long-lost friend with whom you simply lost touch.' The Story Of My Life inspires us to reconnect with those who were part of the earliest chapters of our own life stories.
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Now, opening any new show on Broadway these days is tricky unless you have a pre-sold name by being based on a popular book (WICKED) or film (SHREK, THE LITTLE MERMAID.) It is very difficult to get Broadway audiences to spend $100 or more to see a new original piece. This is why Broadway is currently flooded with revivals.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE had the added disadvantage of opening in the middle of an economic downturn that had forced the closing of 18 shows in a two week period in January 2009. With minimal advance sales, the show depended on the leading New York critics.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE opened February 19, 2009 after two weeks of previews. The preview audiences generally loved the show as did some of the second string critics, but the show was panned by the major papers, notably the reviewer for the New York Times, who found it owed a great deal to the 1981 Sondheim-Furth musical MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. (Perhaps in it's examination of a detroyed friendship, but STORY OF MY LIFE follows its own road. Besides which, it is rich enough theme to encourage further exploration.)
The producers assessed the damage quickly and opted to close after just 5 performances, investing their remaining money in making this cast recording.
If you are a fan of Sondheim's musicals, and if you enjoy scores that delve into character and are rich in emtional textures this is a score you will love. There is a detailed synopsis in the booklet but the songs (and dialogue) on the discs tell the whole story.
Malcolm Gets is a superb Alvin, but the real revelation hjere is Will Chase as the troubled author Thomas. (I confess a fondness for Brent Carver's Alvin in Toronto, but then I didn't get to see STORY OF MY LIFE in New York, and perhaps if I had I would have enjoyed Gets' performance just as much. No perhaps. I am sure of it.) Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations are deliciously spare. This is an intimate 2-character show that I suspect will soon be done in regional theatres and on University campus stages. Many of the songs will become standard audition material.
Take note that this is not the first score by Neil Bartram (and his bookwriting partner Brian Hill) and it certainly won't be their last. These are two immensely talented writers, and anyone who cares about the future of the lyric theatre will be well advised to watch and listen to what they come up with next.
There were some that said that STORY OF MY LIFE belonged in an off-Broadway house - that it was too small a show for Broadway. No - Broadway was to small for this show. But we have the cast album and that will assure a future life for this piece.
I would challenge all potential buyers to stretch themselves - emotionally, artistically - and buy this recording. Malcolm Gets doesn't disappoint. No one does complicated, yet completely understandable and identifiable characters as well as Malcolm Gets. And I am now a great fan of Will Chase as well. The inner turmoil he presents with Thomas is heartbreaking, yet entertaining. Mostly, these two guys make you wish you had grown up with Alvin and Tom...but then, didn't we all grow up with an Alvin, and a Tom? Bartram and Hill have me hooked for life. The emotions they evoke through this beautiful, tragic, hilarious (the adjectives could go on and on) musical practically guarantee their future success and staying power.
I can't stress enough my love for this recording. If you are on the fence...just buy it. You will be glad you did.