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.