Something Rotten! (2022)

Music and Lyrics by Karey Kirkpatrick & Wayne Kirkpatrick
Book by Karey Kirkpatrick & John O'Farrell
Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick & Wayne Kirkpatrick

Sept. 22 -Oct. 13, 2022
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Nick Bottom – Chris Kernan
Nigel Bottom – Marshall Jennings
Bea Bottom – Carrie Wenos
Portia – Melissa Felps
Nostradamus – Jeffrey Izquierdo-Malon
Will Shakespeare – Clayton Humburg
Brother Jeremiah – Jason Blackburn
Shylock/Lord Clapham – Robert Doyle
Minstrel/Peter Quince – Chris Moore
Francis Flute – Mara Bollini
Robin Starveling – Kent Coffel
John Snug – Brittany Kohl Hester
Tom Snout – Ian McCreary
Helena/Psychic – Maggie Nold
Miranda/Astrologer – Alyssa Wolf

Conductor/Keyboard – Mallory Golden
Trumpet – Joe Akers
Guitar – Jack Catalanotto, Adam Rugo
Bass – John Gerdes
Reeds – Joe Hendricks
Percussion – Des Jones

Director – Scott Miller
Music Director – Mallory Golden
Choreographer – Alyssa Wolf
Technical Director – Matt Stuckel
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Lighting Designer – Matt Stuckel
Props Master – Todd Schaefer
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan, Luca Pritchett
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

Something Rotten! gets a delightful regional premier at the Marcelle Theatre in St. Louis this month, under the ebullient direction of New Line Theatre founder Scott Miller. . . I felt like a changed man after two hours and fifteen minutes packed with silly laughter and beautifully sung tunes. Unexpectedly, a lot of Mr. Miller’s usual background players seize the spotlight this time, and the sense of discovery is doubled – it’s not just a new musical to me, but a chance to see entirely different leading men and women telling the tale with fresh wit and emotion. . . If there were a prescription for joy, it would come with this show in the bottle. . . I often fail to capture in words how beautiful the singing is at New Line Theatre, and once again it’s one glorious solo after another.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“The playwright’s the thing in New Lines Theatre’s high-energy and highly entertaining production of Something Rotten! . . . The show is always a good time and New Line’s captivating, fast-paced production doubles the pleasure. . . Director Scott Miller hits the bull’s eye with less over-the-top slapstick and more interconnected and relatable humor in this production. . . New Line Theatre’s smartly interpreted Something’s Rotten! puts the emphasis on the natural humor and empathy that lies in the relationships, old and new, at the center of the play. The approach works marvelously well in the intimate Marcelle theater. . . Well-directed, well-rehearsed performers ensure the many humorously familiar lines and references flow naturally, with just an eyebrow or two raised in confirmation. The show is great fun for all ages with catchy songs, likeable characters and plenty of laughs from clever, relatable humor.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“This production of Something Rotten! is terrific. New Line Theatre's production delivers a robust number of laughs from a script filled with nonsense musical theatre references. Director Scott Miller has taken a big, overblown musical and effectively shrunk the performance to a smaller stage with a simple set. . . The entire ensemble delivers exceptional vocals and animated performances. Everyone in this company is first rate. . . New Line’s production of Something Rotten! is an exceptional reimagination of this asset. It illustrates how a smartly written comedy, in the hands of the right director and technical theater professionals, can effectively make the transition to any size stage.” – James Lindhorst, BroadwayWorld

“No matter if it’s a big Broadway show or a promising tryout that flew under the radar, St. Louis audiences know they can expect great productions from New Line Theatre. In the case of Something Rotten!, they’ve taken the hit musical comedy and turned it into an intimate evening of song, dance, and lots of laughs. . . Something Rotten! is one of the funniest shows of all time. The premise alone is hilarious, with a book full of witty dialogue and clever anachronisms. And the songs are fantastic, with memorable numbers coming one after another. . . Director Scott Miller has another winner on his hands, as audiences get to see one of the funniest, cleverest, and more original musicals of the past decade.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“New Line’s terrific production increased my admiration for the 2015 hit Broadway musical. . . Miller’s encyclopedic knowledge and boundless love of musicals make him an ideal interpreter of Something Rotten! His insightful program notes draw attention to the show’s warning that the pursuit of commercial success can be at the expense of personal and artistic success. Also, Miller points out that Something Rotten! uses the traditional form of the musical comedy in a modern, self-referential way. Miller gets the metatheatrical humor and knows how to put it across to the audience. New Line’s cast is splendid.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

Something Rotten! is a humdinger of a regional professional theater premiere from New Line Theatre. . . Fresh, funny, and frisky, the cast accepts their mission to have fun with the fluff, and the tight-knit ensemble is downright giddy frolicking in some of the most original show tunes in the past decade. . . Something Rotten! is a must-see comedic gem, a well-cast, well-staged show that’s a bright spot in local theater this fall.” – Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL

“New Line has proved over and over that they know how to take Broadway shows and find more substance while focusing on the characters, often by scaling down to fit their smaller company and performance space. Their latest production, Something Rotten! is another example of this concentrated approach, and for the most part, it’s a resounding success. With thoughtful direction and a great cast, and toned-down production values, this show succeeds in managing to find the heart of its story while maintaining the crackling humor and fun meta tone of the piece. . . It was big and flashy in its Broadway version, but director Scott Miller has impressively toned it down here, making it seem less derivative of the slapsticky tone of the works of Mel Brooks and Monty Python and more like a just as hilarious but also more character-focused story in its own right. With this toned-down approach, all the jokes still land, but the message and the heart ring even more true. . . Overall, Something Rotten! is a real treat. At New Line, it’s not big or flashy, but it looks great, and it distills the story down to its essential elements – music, comedy, truth, and heart. It’s a remarkable example of the idea that sometimes, less really is more.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

Sometimes, people think that because New Line produces only smart, socially and politically relevant, adult musical theatre, that we don’t do comedy. But we do a lot of comedy. As Aristophanes knew well, it’s much easier to deal with serious issues through comedy. It’s the “Spoonful of Sugar” theory. So though Something Rotten! is outrageously wacky and transgressive, it also deals with one of the most important questions in our society in the twenty-first century – what is success?

This story is all about defining commercial success, personal success, and artistic success – and realizing that they are not all the same thing, that they are in fact often in opposition. It’s the central conflict between our fictional brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom.

A few years back, I got to interview the real world Kirkpatrick brothers for my Stage Grok podcast when the show first came to the Fox on tour. They are two-thirds of the Something Rotten! writing team, along with John O’Farrell. They told me the idea of the show started with a wonderful What If that’s not only very funny, but unexpectedly resonant in a dozen different ways:

What if Shakespeare’s London operated like today’s Hollywood?

The extra insightful part of this juxtaposition is that Shakespeare’s theatre scene was a commercially competitive world, and Will made his living as a writer; so mashing up these two worlds reveals so much that the two share, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we see that Bottom’s mistakes all come from chasing that false god of commercial success.

One thing I’ve realized about the show as we’ve worked – in so many ways, it’s a perfectly constructed 1950s musical comedy, but so meta. It uses the tools and devices and construction of old school musical comedy, but it also acknowledges and undermines all those things at the same time. It’s exactly the kind of show I invented the “neo musical comedy” label for, using all those tools inherited from George M. Cohan and George Abbott, but for very different agendas, social, political, artistic, satirical, etc. Something Rotten! is a meta-musical, a show that acknowledges in various ways that it’s a show, referencing not just the show’s story but the act of performing of it as well.

There is a whole smorgasbord of crazy, wild, smart, transgressive, meta-theatrical stuff in Something Rotten! Cynical but idealistic, smartass but big-hearted, steeped in musical comedy tradition and also happily dismantling it. 1595, but also 2022. This is my kind of ride.

Urinetown (2022)

Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollman
Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis

June 2-25, 2022
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Bobby Strong – Kevin Corpuz
Hope Cladwell – Melissa Felps, Grace Langford
Officer Lockstock – Kent Coffel
Little Sally – Jennelle Gilreath
Caldwell B. Cladwell – Todd Schaefer
Penelope Pennywise – Sarah Gene Dowling
Officer Barrel – Marshall Jennings
Mr. McQueen – Clayton Humburg, Chris Moore
Senator Fipp – Colin Dowd
Josephine Strong – Mara Bollini
Joseph Strong / Hot Blades Harry – Zachary Allen Farmer
Little Becky Two Shoes – Grace Langford, Jessica Winingham
Tiny Tom – Ian McCreary
Billy Boy Bill – Chris Moore
Robbie the Stockfish – Christopher Strawhun
Soupy Sue – Jessica Winingham

Conductor/Keyboard – Tim Clark
Reeds – Kelly Austermann
Trombone – Tom Hanson
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – John Gerdes

Directors – Scott Miller, Chris Kernan
Music Director – Tim Clark
Choreographer – Chris Kernan
Scenic Designer – Todd Schaefer
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“Was there ever a show like Urinetown, showing off this month with a jazzy new gloss at New Line Theatre? It’s a fantasy of a nightmare of a concept of a dream. And it barrels right at you, at a hundred miles an hour. New Line founder Scott Miller co-directs, along with choreographer Chris Kernan, and the crazy audacity of it just flies out of them both, with an outstanding cast and a very fine band. . . This is one of New Line’s strongest shows, where the company’s whole three decades of gritty, can’t-turn-away entertainments come to hard-driving, satirical fruition.” – Richard Green, Talkin Broadway

“New Line Theatre concludes its 30th-anniversary season with a boisterous, energetic presentation of Urinetown, still a witty and scathing satire on much that’s wrong with society more than twenty years after its Off-Broadway debut. . . With the declining state of politics today, Urinetown is as prescient as ever. This is not heavy-handed satire, though. Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann and their characters, Officer Lockstock and Little Sally, wink and nod at the audience directly throughout its two witty acts and two hours of smoothly paced running time in this version directed by Scott Miller and Chris Kernan.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

Urinetown is smart, sassy, and relentlessly metatheatrical – that is, it calls attention to the fact that it is theater piece. These qualities put the musical in the wheelhouse of New Line Theatre, whose current staging of Urinetown is a thorough delight. . . Under codirectors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, the splendid New Line cast displays a sure grip on the style required to bring out the cheeky spirit of the book by Greg Kotis and the lyrics by Kotis and Mark Hollmann, who wrote the music.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

Urinetown is the meta, satirical musical we need right now. . . Right from the start, it’s clear that we are in for something special. Conventional musical rules are thrown out the window, and the show’s self-awareness leads to a fun and unique experience throughout the show. . . Urinetown is packed full of funny moments and memorable musical numbers, while at the same time begging the audience to think about how close some of the absurdity resembles the current state of the world. A biting satire and social commentary that never ceases to entertain, the show is non-stop fun that also seems more important than ever.” – Kevin Brackett, Review STL

“In the capable hands of directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan, the talented cast of Urinetown gives audiences an exceptional and witty production that resonates with uncomfortable truth. . . Urinetown is a delightful and bouncy bummer of a comic musical. Poppy songs, potty humor, and funny double takes help deliver serious concerns about global warming as well as corporate greed and political corruption. Strong performances, pointed direction and an abundance of comedy ensure New Line Theatre succeeds in giving audiences an entertaining show with a thought-provoking edge.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“If Urinetown isn’t the best show that Scott Miller’s New Line Theatre has ever produced, the distinction is too fine to matter. This show – brainy, incisive, and so funny that it makes you choose between laughing and breathing – stands at the very pinnacle of New Line’s achievements. . . About the laughing and breathing thing – that’s no exaggeration. Should you hold your breath to make sure you hear the next hilarious line? Or should you just give in and laugh your head off? Both approaches have their advantages. Personally, I think it’s simplest to go to see it twice. . . This is wonderful grist for our Miller. With its neon political message and its unabashed love for the art of musical theater, Urinetown has in Miller a director whose own sensibility is perfectly in tune with the show’s material. It’s a love match.” – Judy Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

“Zeitgeist, meet Urinetown. In this Twilight Zone reality we seem to live in now in the 21st century, the subversive Urinetown the musical has never seemed timelier. Or funnier. Or scarier. What once was merely laugh-out-loud outrageous 20 years ago has morphed into a gasp-filled hit-nail-on-head satire where sleazebag politicians are even slimier, greedy corporate bastards are more cruel, ecological disaster seems more imminent and cries of revolution are not far-fetched but absolutely necessary. . . This cast has the vocal chops to entertain in lively fashion, and with nimble comic timing, hits the sweet spot between exaggerated naivete and cheeky irreverence. . . Co-directors Scott Miller and Chris Kernan’s fresh take goes darker, which suits the capricious winds of an ever-evolving global pandemic that we have lived through for 27 months. Not to mention clinging to a democracy with fascist and authoritarian threats very much present. And hello, global warming.” – Lynn Venhaus, Pop Life STL

“It’s a dark comedy and a sharp satire, and at New Line, it’s a memorable experience with an especially strong cast, insightful direction, and a striking aesthetic. . . It’s a strong ensemble all around, with loads of cynical energy and strong vocals. There’s also excellent stylized choreography by Chris Kernan. This is a demanding show in terms of style, pacing, and overall theming, and all that is done remarkably well at New Line, under the direction of Scott Miller and Kernan. . . At New Line, Urinetown challenges, provokes, and ultimately entertains with a superb cast of local actors and singers. It may not be a happy musical, but it’s certainly a memorable one.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

When Urinetown opened on Broadway in 2001, it broke the musical comedy. In a good way. In a perverse way, it was the most honest musical to be written in decades.

The evil musical theatre geniuses Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann (also creators of the amazing Yeast Nation) took the long-perfected machinery of the American musical comedy, passed down to us from George M. Cohan through George Abbott, and they threw several big wrenches into that machine, pulled out some of its gears, smeared peanut butter on a few of the belts.

Even the weirder experiments of the past never broke it. They may have used that machinery for subversive and/or outrageous purposes (Little Shop, anyone?), and in the case of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, he ran the machine backwards. But everybody always kept the machine running.

Kotis and Hollmann broke it. In a good way. And in the process, they helped birth the neo musical comedy, shows that uses the tools and conventions of old-school musical comedy for darker, more political, more cynical purposes.

The opening number of Urinetown violates every rule of musical theatre openings – except for one, maybe the most important, Sondheim's Ten Minute Rule, which requires laying out all the ground rules for the evening in the first ten minutes of the show, ideally in the first song. (Think of Into the Woods, Company, Hamilton, High Fidelity, Next to Normal, Bat Boy, Be More Chill, Heathers, and so many other great shows.) Urinetown does in fact set up all the rules for the evening in the first song, but these are really different rules.

While most stories weave the central theme subtly throughout the story, Urinetown bludgeons us repeatedly all night with water and pee imagery. This world is familiar to us, but also different from ours, like a funhouse mirror of our real world, distorted, but still a mirror. We can count on certain things making sense, but not all things, and we can sort of see our own reflection. The storytelling seems unnervingly serious and perversely literal. The heightened style of acting mashes together the high formality of Classical Theatre with a gleefully silly plot and ridiculous characters and dialogue.

In some ways, Urinetown asks actors to actively go against their best instincts. But I've seen this weird alchemy work. I saw it on Broadway, and I directed the show for New Line fifteen years ago, with a fearless cast. It's been a blast to return to this upside-down world again.

Head Over Heels (2022)

Conceived by and Original Book by Jeff Whitty
Adapted by James Magruder
Music and Lyrics by The Go-Go's
Based on the 16th-century novel The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney

March 2-25, 2022
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Princess Pamela – Grace Langford
Musidorus – Clayton Humburg
Princess Philoclea – Melissa Felps
Mopsa – Dawn Schmid
King Basilius – Zachary Allen Farmer
Queen Gynecia – Carrie Wenos Priesmeyer
Pythio – TiĆ©lere Cheatem
Dametas – Colin Dowd
Arcadians – Kevin Corpuz, Evan Fornachon,
Chris Kernan, Chris Moore, Maggie Nold,
Michelle Sauer, Alyssa Wolf, Sara Rae Womack

Conductor/Keyboard – Nicolas Valdez
Lead Guitar – Aaron Rugo
Guitar – Jaylen Edwards
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Bass – John Gerdes

Director – Scott Miller
Music Director – Nicolas Valdez
Choreographers – Michelle Sauer, Sara Rae Womack
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Courtney Gibson, Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Ryan Day
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein, Patrick Donnigan,
Patrick Donnigan, Kathleen Dwyer, Gary Karasek,
Luca Pritchett, Paul Troyke, Victoria Xu
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

"Head Over Heels thoroughly entertains. The themes and story are charmingly comic and completely relevant. The book’s light touch ensures its messages about love and acceptance are easy to embrace, even in flyover country. Miller’s engaging direction keeps the musical comedy upbeat and the audience involved through both uncertain and declarative moments. Most importantly, exceptional performances have the audience cheering for the characters and for love to conquer all while the infectious songs of The Go-Go’s perfectly hit the mark." – Tina Farmer, KDHX

"New Line Theatre, which was forced to close its hit production of the musical Head Over Heels with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, revives the show with an even better version this March. If the infectious music of the Go-Go’s and a witty, clever script are your choices of entertainment, you’ll be delighted with New Line’s effervescent presentation of this agreeable romp. . . The zesty, exuberant choreography created by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack is better and tighter in this new presentation than in the 2020 version." – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

"Two years later, Head Over Heels is back at New Line. The original production was splendid. So is the revival. . . The perceptive stage direction by Scott Miller in complete sympathy with the show. The score sounds wonderful thanks to New Line band under Miller’s musical direction. The dance numbers sparkle in the exuberant choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack." – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

“Exactly two years ago, when COVID-19 was about to cast the live theater world into a kind of suspended animation, New Line Theatre put on a dazzling regional premier of the Go-Go's inspired stage musical Head Over Heels. . . it's still a thrill to watch and to get caught up in the swirl of it. Head Over Heels' vocal and dance magic remains in excellent working order. . . It's a jukebox musical that transcends the category, reshuffling the popular 1980s girl group's songbook into a 16th century smash hit poem, complete with Day-Glo doublet and hose, and some very up to date gender pronouns.” – Richard Green, Talkin Broadway

"There’s a (near-riotous) party going on at New Line Theatre. Scott Miller and his merry band have unleashed Head Over Heels. Unleashed again, that is. Their first production was stopped in its tracks two years ago this month by the pandemic. Celebrate by heading to The Marcelle Theater and settling in for an evening of fun. . . And then there’s the choreography from Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack, dazzling and athletic and in-your-face. . . Miller directed this, and he’s hit it out of the park. It’s a good example of the whole new world of musical theatre." – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

"Two years ago, New Line opened exactly the kind of show that makes this oddball company a treasure of St. Louis theater: hip, zesty and largely unknown. New Line founder Scott Miller has an uncanny gift for discovering these gems; I call it Playdar. . . Here’s the great news: New Line has mounted it again, in a hilarious production that involves nearly all the same actors and artists. . . A masterful, genre-crossing, achronological mashup." – Judy Newmark, All the World’s a Stage

WELCOME BACK! Can you believe it’s been two years?

We live in an age of mashup, the art of combining forms and content that shouldn't go together, to form something new and wonderful. Head Over Heels is one of the most interesting mashups I've yet encountered, slamming 16th-century Elizabethan language and morality up against 1980s punk-pop, and slamming them both up against the sexual and gender politics of America right now. It's a heady brew.

The result is breathtaking – funny, shocking, ironic, surprising, ridiculous, revealing, smart, insightful, and deliciously goofy. This show follows Stephen Sondheim's Cardinal Rule, that Content Dictates Form. In this world, love doesn't follow any normal rules, so neither does the show. Gender is nearly irrelevant here, and along with the royal family, we in the audience find many of our preconceptions and assumptions turned gleefully upside-down. But though sexuality permeates the plot, this isn't a story about sex; it's a story about connection and self-awareness, and how one requires the other.

Only after these characters are able to achieve some self-awareness are they able to connect meaningfully. And the road to that self-awareness is very painful for them and very funny for us. We can laugh at them partly because this show swims in 21st century irony, and that gives us some emotional distance, but also because we can all see ourselves and our own ridiculous romantic blunders in these characters and events on stage. And in that recognition, we in the audience also come to some amount of self-awareness and connection, along with the characters.

Every assumption we have is up for grabs in this world. Our usual ideas about gay and straight, male and female, love and lust, beauty and attraction, are all enthusiastically upended. And that often revealing dissonance between the real world and the world of Head Over Heels is the source of lots of rich, insightful, human comedy. We never know what's coming next in this modern fairy tale because this world operates so differently from ours. And that's the crazy fun of this adventure. It's never safe to assume anything in this world. Anything.

It wasn't all that long ago that catalog musicals (or jukebox musicals, as some folks call them) were just a punch line. At their best, those shows were guilty pleasures. But Jersey Boys showed us a catalog musical can be well-structured, well-written, and ultimately, really powerful musical theatre. Then Michael Mayer became the Hal Prince of the catalog musical, as he expanded and enlivened the form with the brilliant American Idiot, Head Over Heels, and Jagged Little Pill. Since we already produced American Idiot in 2016, it's been huge fun working on this show again, seeing how this rich sub-sub-genre is evolving...

The Story of My Life (2021)

Book by Brian Hill
Music and Lyrics by Neil Bartram

Sept. 30-Oct. 16, 2021
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Alvin – Chris Kernan
Thomas – Jeffrey M. Wright

Conductor/Keyboard – Scott Miller

Director & Music Director – Scott Miller
Stage Manager – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designers – Chris Kernan, Jeffrey M. Wright
Lighting Design – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Erin Goodenough
Scenic Crew – Richard Brown, Nick Brunstein,
Kathleen Dwyer, Paul Troyke
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

“Emerging from the pandemic for their 30th season, New Line Theatre is welcoming audiences back to live theater with The Story of My Life, an emotionally powerful two-hander about memory, friendship, individualism and, the power of words. . . Filled with moments of whimsy, innocence, laughter, melancholy, and loss, this sterling production stars Chris Kernan as Alvin alongside Jeffrey M. Wright as the uptight Thomas with artistic director Scott Miller framing the drama on keyboards. Watching Kernan and Wright feed off of each other is mesmerizing. Onstage their symbiotically linked performances overwhelm anything in their path. Working in tandem, each delivers a powerhouse performance. . . The Story of My Life is a profoundly moving and simply stunning work of theater.” – Rob Levy, BroadwayWorld

“If Scott Miller has a superpower, it surely would be finding the potential in shows that had too short a life on or around Broadway. The Story of My Life is another winner, so beautiful and moving – that you will find yourself thinking back to past relationships of your own and making sure you remember their stories. Jeffrey M. Wright and Chris Kernan turn in a pair of mesmerizing performances that will have you hooked until the very end.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“The 90-minute show by Brian Hill, with clever words and music by Neil Bartram, is short on overhead but long on life, with engrossing, storytelling songs. . . It's Chris Kernan's show as Alvin, the gleeful inspiration for all of Tom's stories. And composer Neil Bartram keeps the mood playful between the usual dark and painful memories of growing up. But Jeffrey Wright's performance, as Tom, suggests a psychological counter-melody: does one simply neglect a relationship to death; or (on some level) has he methodically set about to kill it? The question of abandonment looms larger, though the question of who's to blame remains tantalizingly in doubt.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“New Line Theatre opens its 30th anniversary season with a sparkling production of a two-hand musical ideally suited for a presentation in pandemic times – intimate and poignantly effective under artistic director Scott Miller. . . Miller has a knack for finding little gems and fully realizing their individual charms, as he’s done here with The Story of My Life. Kernan and Wright join him in ensuring that New Line’s return for its 30th season is a successful and rewarding one.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“For a story about death, centered on a eulogy, the show delivers a lot of joy and gratitude. The small, stage, designed by Rob Lippert, with lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl, layers on the comforting vibes. And the nuanced, personal performances by Jeffrey M. Wright and Chris Kernan pay tribute to friendships and the shared experiences that form the stories of our lives. Affectionate and reflective The Story of My Life invites you in to Tom’s heart then wraps you in warmth like that first hug from a good friend you miss.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“The show’s rich emotional depth effectively builds to a heart-tugging conclusion. . . An outstanding collaboration by all involved, The Story of My Life has a lot to say. . . Holiday time or not, this show is a gift to theatergoers eager to feel 'the feels' that only live theater can provide. And a reminder about humanity in a time of great uncertainty and division. It could not be more timely – and timeless.” – Lynn Venhaus, PopLifeSTL

The Story of My Life is a bit like jazz — a certain open-mindedness is probably necessary to appreciate it. But the show has a lot to say about embracing the moment and cherishing life. And it benefits from heartfelt performances that are splendidly complemented by Rob Lippert's scenic design and Kenneth Zinkl's lighting. . . Anyone who's coped with a difficult friendship — or reluctantly come to the conclusion that such a friendship simply wasn't worth the effort — should have no trouble relating to The Story of My Life. It might even be a good idea to bring a friend along.” – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“At New Line, this simply staged show displays a great deal of complexity in its characters and their relationship, and even though it might not be ‘big’ in the sense of size, it’s message is of profound importance. This is a very human show, with joy, with a very human heart.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“It was a daring move for New Line Theatre to open this season, of all years, with a play about someone writing a eulogy. Too many of us have had to do that, too many of us have thought we might have to do that, too many of us have thought, Oh, God, please don’t ask me to do that. It’s been a stinking couple of years, but the fact that someone was brave enough to think it was material for a play, two someones in this case, book by Brian Hill, music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, is impressive. Scott Miller, New Line’s founder and artistic director, is well known for his fearless approach to what he stages, and once again we have him grabbing life, giving it a good shake and holding it up for inspection.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“Scott Miller and New Line Theatre are easing themselves into the Reduced Pandemic Era with a small, pleasant production of a small, pleasant musical, The Story of My Life, with two actors and an accompanist. And while the production is not elaborate, the usual suspects are putting it all together with their usual skill and taste. . . Neil Bartram’s music and lyrics enrich the emotions in Brian Hill’s book . . . it is skillfully shaped to tell the stories of two lives.” – Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle

Welcome to Tom Weaver’s head. Tom is a writer, and the action of The Story of My Life takes place entirely inside his head. We meet his best friend Alvin, but since we’re in Tom’s head, this is Tom’s conception of Alvin, his impression of his best friend, more than the real thing.

You’d be surprised how many musicals take place inside the hero’s head – Company, Pippin, A Strange Loop, most of A New Brain, much of Kiss of the Spider Woman, much of Lady in the Dark, the title song of Jesus Christ Superstar, almost all the songs in High Fidelity. You’d probably be less surprised at how much that changes the story, when the hero’s subconscious is making the storytelling rules, instead of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

With The Story of My Life, Tom starts out trying to tell Alvin’s story, but by the end of the show, we see that it’s so much more complicated than that. Instead of laying out the story of their lifelong friendship in chronological order, this story is more like stream-of-consciousness. Rather than taking us down a direct narrative path, the structure of the show – like the structure of Tom’s brain – is more like a jigsaw puzzle. Tom and Alvin (who’s really Tom, right?) offer up one puzzle piece at a time, and when the last pieces are put in place, we see the full picture. And the show’s title becomes more meaningful.

This is an adult musical. It’s not R-rated, like New Line’s Bukowsical, Jerry Springer the Opera, I Love My Wife, American Idiot, or bare. This is a story about being an adult, about the adult world, about the endless complexities and maddening nuances of adult human relationships, and the messy, nagging question marks that sometimes remain.

This is a story about stories, the foundation of all human communication, what they are, where they come from, what we do with them, why we need them, and how they can define a life. This is also a story about the Butterfly Effect, the idea that a tiny, seemingly trivial change can create a chain of events that results in massive consequences.

In terms of narrative structure, that Butterfly Effect is essentially what some writers call the Obligatory Moment, that moment toward which everything before it leads; and from which everything after it results. Think of it as a “hinge” moment that divides the story into Before and After. (Like in West Side Story when Tony and Maria see each other at the dance; or in Rocky Horror when Brad and Janet decide to walk back to that castle.) Take out that Obligatory Moment and there’s no story.

You’ll see that moment just a couple scenes into The Story of My Life, and with it, I think you’ll recognize the Butterfly Effect in your own life, that one special teacher who said that one inspiring thing, or that consequential choice you once made. It’s a universal human truth. We all have Obligatory Moments in our lives. Which is why this makes such a great story and why we connect to it so powerfully.