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NY Theater Reviews

Malcolm Gets and Will Chase/PH:Sara Krulwich

SAD ENDINGS

By BILL STEVENSON

The Story of My Life is a sweet two-hander -maybe too sweet for a life on Broadway.

A sweet, small-scale 90-minute musical about a relationship between two men who grew up together, The Story of My Life will appeal to sentimental types but won't go over well with cynics. Will Chase and Malcolm Gets sing beautifully, and Richard Maltby Jr. provides aptly sensitive direction. Neil Bartram's songs have pretty melodies, but since they're all ballads performed by one or two men they sound pretty much alike.

At the opening Thomas Weaver ( Chase) stands at a lectern trying to figure out what to say in a eulogy for his oldest friend Alvin Kelby ( Gets). Weaver is a successful writer, yet he can't decide what story to tell about his childhood buddy. Most of the show consists of flashbacks to important moments in their lives - a memorable first-grade teacher, the deaths of parents, and the once inseparable friends' gradually drifting apart. Alvin stays in the small town to run his family's bookstore, while Thomas goes to college and becomes a celebrated writer.

Book writer Brian Hill tells the simple, heartfelt story straightforwardly, inserting numerous mention's of the film It's a Wonderful Life along the way. Bartram contributed the music and lyrics, and manay of the songs are lovely. Gets has two of the best- "Mrs. Remington" and "People Carry On" - early in the musical. Chase does a nice job with the emotional "The Butterfly," which includes a lyric that sums up one of the show's main themes- "You change the world with everything you do." The two sing just as stirringly in duets, especially the climatic "Angels in the Snow."

With songs about butterflies and snow angels, The Story of My Life will strike many in the audience as a bit too sentimental and twee. Softies who love Frank Capra movies and enjoy reminiscing about beloved first-grade teachers will eat it up. But sarcastic folks who snicker through weepies like Beaches and The Joy Luck Club are likely to find this mild tale of an evolving friendship tedious.

Even though the two actors couldn't be better and Maltby's direction is first-rate, most theatergoers expect a large-scale show (with at least a handful of people in the cast) when they go to a Broadway musical ( especially when paying Broadway prices). As intimate two-person shows go, The Story of My Life is often moving and certainly well executed. But it remains to be seen whether such a modest musical can appeal to enough people to enjoy a long life on Broadway.

(Postscript: Our reviewer was spot-on in wondering about the show's viability. The Story of My Life closed February 22-just three days after it opened.-Ed