Previews at the Booth Theatre began Feb. 3 toward a Feb. 19 opening. The musical will have played 18 previews and five regular performances.
Will Chase and Malcolm Gets star as pals who grew up together, and play ages 6 to 35. Directed by Tony Award winner Richard Maltby Jr. ( Ain't Misbehavin', Fosse, Ring of Fire), the intermissionless show marks the Broadway debut of the writing team of Neil Bartram (music and lyrics) and Brian Hill (book). The Story of My Life premiered at Toronto's Canadian Stage Company in fall 2006, and has been revised and refined under Maltby.
Most New York City critics were not won over by the small, some said mundane, musical. The Associated Press praised the piece. Roma Torre, a critic on the local NY1 channel, praised the show but questioned whether it belonged in a big theatre (the Booth is one of Broadway's smallest houses). Regional audiences in Connecticut embraced the show in a developmental run by Goodspeed Musicals last fall.
In the theatrical memory-play of a musical, sweetened with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick ( A Catered Affair, 110 in the Shade, LoveMusik, Road Show), Gets plays quirky bookstore owner Alvin Kelby (the friend who stayed put) and Chase is best-selling writer Thomas Weaver (the friend who flew away). Tom processes the chapters of his life (literally thumbing through short stories that he wrote) during the humane 90-minute show, and discovers a main character between the lines — Alvin. The Story of My Life is told on scenic designer Robert Brill's monochromatic, expressionistic unit set; the production team also includes costume designer Wade Laboissonniere, lighting designer Ken Billington and sound designers Peter Fitzgerald and Carl Casella.
Musical director is David Holcenberg, whose Broadway credits include Good Vibrations, Mamma Mia! and Seussical.
What has been buried in the pre-opening press, partly because the producers don't want to underline it, is the fact that the show is told in the frame of Thomas trying to write a eulogy for his pal, Alvin, who died mysteriously. This revelation is hardly a spoiler, as it's revealed in the show's first moments. Nothing in any of the show's marketing would lead a ticketbuyer to believe it's a musical given wing by the shadow of death.
Fans of the score say the show is not at all about death — it's not funereal or maudlin — but rather it's made up of detail- rich chapters in the lives of two yearning, sensitive pals. A woman overheard at a preview said, "It made me think about people in my life who got me where I am; it makes me want to call them on the phone."
In a statement, actor Gets said, "We live in a time when people need something that is fun and authentic. That is exactly what this musical is. It's a universal story about friendship. It's about the important things in our lives — relationships with people. This musical does not have a high-tech set. Instead it relies on two actors, great music and one hell of a show."
Co-star Chase added, "This is a play about family relationships, true friendship and reconnecting with the simplest and purest qualities in our lives. Doing this production has really affected my life. It's the first time in my career that I have done a production that inspires me to call my friends and family after the curtain call."
Gets' Broadway credits include The Moliere Comedies, Amour (Tony nomination as Best Actor in a Musical) and concerts of Passion and Dreamgirls. Gets may be best known to audiences as Richard on the television comedy "Caroline in the City."
Chase's Broadway credits include High Fidelity, Aida, The Full Monty, Rent and Miss Saigon. He was Roger in the final Broadway company of Rent, which was recently captured on film for a "cinecast" presentation (now on DVD).
Songwriter Bartram is the recipient of a Dramatists Guild Jonathan Larson Fellowship, a Jonathan Larson Foundation Award, and was a finalist for the 2007 Fred Ebb Award. He wrote the music and lyrics for The Nightingale and the Rose and Somewhere in the World, which ran for five seasons at the Charlottetown Festival in Canada.
The Story of My Life was seen in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's Festival of New Musicals in fall 2007. For more information about the collaborators, visit bartramandhill.com.
The Broadway production is produced by Chase Mishkin, Jack M. Dalgleish, Bud Martin, Carole L. Haber in association with Chunsoo Shin.
Jim Stanek and Bradley Dean are the standbys. Lisa Shriver is associate director.
The Booth is located at 222 West 45th Street in Manhattan. Show times on Broadway are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 3 PM.
Tickets, priced $66.50-$110, are available by calling (212) 239-6200 or by visiting www.telecharge.com.
For more information visit www.thestoryofmylife.com.