Monday, February 9, 2009
Not the story of my life
Last week, a new musical started previews on Broadway. What? You haven't heard of it? Yeah, I'm not surprised. You're probably better off staying in the dark.
My friend Jamie scored us some free seats to The Story of My Life. I was looking forward to it - a new show, starring Will Chase and Malcom Gets, two actors that I've always liked. Unfortunately, my faith in the American musical proved unfounded.
The basic story is this: A guy is trying to write his best friend's eulogy - in an undisclosed place - maybe it's "God's library," maybe it's the inside of Will Chase's head - who really knows? - when his best friend comes back (from the dead? inside his mind? again, who knows?) to talk with him about the eulogy. And that's pretty much it.
On the plus side, the actors are very talented. They are both excellent singers and actors. They are trapped with some unfortunate material. I wish them the best of luck in their next projects....and that may be all I can come up with. This kind of bums me out.
On the slightly more negative side, the show is too small to be a musical. This is not because there are only two actors. It's that the story itself is too quaint and just not very musical. Musicals work best when they are full of big ideas - the collapse of a way of life (Fiddler, Rent, etc), a revolution (Les Mis), etc or larger than life characters (The Producers, Hairspray). This musical is a collection of tiny stories - a butterfly flapping its wings (seriously), two kids making snow angels. They're nice stories. They may work well in book form, but they're not that theatrical.
Here's the thing: this show is clearly meant to be a kind of "every man" story, the kind we all can relate to. You know, everyone has a best friend, a first grade teacher, etc. And sure, we do all have those things. However, the overall tone of the show is so quaint, so old fashioned, that it becomes unrelatable. The show is ladled with far too many references to Frank Capra and Mark Twain. I'd be hard pressed to find a couple of average men that make constant references to It's a Wonderful Life, all the time, throughout their entire lives. Mix that with old fashioned costumes (do a lot of men wear three piece suits?), a setting called "Angel Falls" (Bedford Falls, anyone?), and constant mentions of God make this show feel like it takes place 50 years ago. In a small town. That never existed. Except in Frank Capra's most boring thoughts.
On top of all that, the story arc as a whole is so unsatisfying. No real conclusions are ever really come to - there are no big revelations and there aren't supposed to be. But all I could think was, that's it? I sat through 90 minutes for this? In the final song, one of the characters is talking about the lack of answers that the show comes to. "Isn't it refreshing?" All I could think was "no."
A few last minute thoughts and observations:
This show has huge well of untapped homoeroticism. I kept waiting for the two characters to make out or declare their love for each other. That never happened.
Jamie fell asleep about five minutes into the show. This is a girl who stayed awake through In My Life. I'm just saying.....