Tuesday, December 09, 2014
TOUCHING, SWEEPING "STORY OF MY LIFE"
By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
Tyler Wright (left) and Jeremy Vega peek out from their poster.
Fans of Facebook are perpetually plastered with homilies about the value of lifelong friendships. Arizona Onstage Productions takes the message far deeper in its hauntingly poignant production “The Story of My Life,” a two-person musical performed without any mimes or tap dancers on a one-set stage using street clothes for costumes.
Instead of razzle-dazzle in song, the audience is treated to Tyler Wright's nimble tenor voice floating high notes with incredible delicacy to remind us that we don't deserve our new friends if we don't remember our old friends.
Jeremy Vega brings emotional contrast to the show in a role that is less dazzling by design. Vega as Alvin Kelby -- who is the childhood friend of Thomas Weaver (Wright) -- provides the gravitas when Thomas leaves their small town after high school and goes off to college.
Thomas is the more self-centered one who becomes a brilliant writer while Alvin is the caring one who stays home and eventually takes over the family's new and used bookstore. Alvin is happy enough with this arrangement, while Thomas gets so swept up with more worldly success he doesn't give Alvin a second thought.
But then Alvin begins to notice all the stories Thomas writes are from the village childhood they spent together. Alvin wonders if he shouldn't share in some of Thomas' success, since he played a big part in those stories, too.
The resolution in this 90-minute work performed without intermission is not joyful. It is thoughtful and deep. Both performers deliver their songs with extreme sensitivity. The beauty of this work is not in the music, which has a Sondheim-like vagueness to its melodies, or even in the lyrics built on long lines of poetic ambition.
Kevin Johnson the director, and Bill Patterson the music director, have these two singers creating unforgettable emotional experiences on stage. Adding the orchestral framework are Julie Wypych, reeds, Rex Colin Mitchell, cello, and Patterson, piano.
You will be taken back to your own childhood, for sure, seeing with new awareness how a small incident moved your six-year-old self forward in a whole new direction, maybe just by reading a different book, or liking some unknown Saturday morning T V show.
Don't be surprised after leaving an Arizona Onstage performance that you get back on Facebook and try to find that person from grade school, the one who moved away when you were 11. “The Story of My Life,” with songs by Neil Bartram and book by Brian Hill, has that kind of power.
Performances continue through Dec. 21. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12, 6 p.m. Dec. 13, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19-20, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 21. Tickets are $32.50 general admission, $25 senior citizens, $20 students, active artists and military. For details and online purchase, www.arizonaonstage.org