Directed by Manhattan Theatre Club veteran Michael Bush, the intimate two-hander by Neil Bartram (music and lyrics) and Brian Hill (book), boasts a creative team including musical director Marek Norman (CanStage's Twelfth Night), set and lighting designer Glenn Davidson (CanStage's Letters From Lehrer), costume designer Linda Cho, stage manager Darragh Parsons and apprentice stage manager Carolyn Mykytyshyn.
Bartram and Hill are the same team behind CanStage's workshop of Not Wanted on the Voyage.
According to CanStage, "Alvin [played by Jeffrey Kuhn] and Thomas [Brent Carver] met in Grade One. They shared the battlefields of childhood and adolescence, inseparable until one moved to the big city and their lives took different directions. The Story of My Life is a tender, musical celebration of lifelong friends and the power of a friendship that can tie two people together forever, no matter where they are."
Carver is fresh out of the Toronto stage spectacle The Lord of the Rings, in which he played Gandalf. He snagged a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Kiss of the Spider Woman, and was nominated for Parade. Considered a treasure in Canadian theatre, he also has a long history playing classic roles at the Stratford Festival.
Jeffrey Kuhn's credits include the original cast of Ragtime and the recent Broadway production of Assassins, in which he played Zangara. He also appeared in many Stratford Festival plays. *
Bartram told Playbill.com, "We started writing The Story of My Life because we wanted to explore the nature of lifelong friendships and how those relationships that develop during childhood can change the trajectory of our lives. We also wanted to write an intimate story. Something that, we hope, everyone can relate to on some level."
Hill added, "We've each had people who have affected our lives profoundly, even though we may not have known it at the time. Essentially this show is a tribute to them."
What is the flavor or shape of the score?
"The score is mainly made up of story songs," Bartram explained. "Because one of the characters is a writer we tried to focus on the collecting and telling of stories and specifically the stories of the two characters' lives together. As for style, I suppose the music is best described as contemporary musical theatre. It's not through-composed but there's a lot of music considering it's a 90-minute one-act."
Hill said, "In the show, one of the characters is trying to write the eulogy of the other. It occurred to us that when you look back on a life, it can seem to be a collection of anecdotes that may not do justice to the whole story. We've tried to make each of the scenes and songs a satisfying story unto itself that when put together has a greater impact."
The Story of My Life is a rare musical not based on existing source material.
"Writing an original musical, rather than an adaptation, is a daunting task," Hill said. "You've got infinite possibilities. But with our director Michael Bush and the development that we've done with the help of Manhattan Theatre Club and CanStage we hope that we've been able to hone this piece down to the essential story."
Neil Bartram is creating his own orchestrations. Marek Norman will be leading the trio of musicians from the grand piano, alongside Sharon Prater (cello) and Tony Nickel (winds).
Performances continuing to Dec. 9 at CanStage's Berkeley Street Theatre.
For more information, call (416) 368-3110 or visit www.canstage.com.