Virtual theater isn’t exactly theater in the traditional sense; after all, that which is streamed or screened alters the theater experience making it more akin to a “live” television show or a movie watching event. Nevertheless, in these pandemic times, we take what we can get in terms of drama, music and comedy.
And the award-winning Chance Theater is making an admirable effort to accommodate our desire for live theater, as exemplified by its current production of the musical The Story of My Life (book by Brian Hill; music and lyrics by Neil Bartram). Given the complexity of delivering a live show via a virtual format, it is hats-off time to director Matthew McCray who juggles the subtleties of this emotionally impactful musical to an extent that our heartstrings are tugged even through a computer screen.
Moreover, Robyn Manion’s musical direction is simple and direct, like an arrow aimed to the soul. Of course, this moving bit of staged melancholy is a tribute to the two performers who carry this 90-minute musical to its bittersweet denouement; that is, Dillon Klena as Thomas, a successful writer, and Wyn Moreno as Alvin, who has inherited his father’s bookstore, which is where Thomas and Alvin developed their long friendship along with their love of literature.
The show begins with Thomas struggling to script a eulogy for the recently departed Alvin. Like a ghost haunting his memories, Alvin reappears to relive the good times and the sad times of their upbringing, evoking mutual fondness for Frank Capra’s movie It’s a Wonderful Life, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, making angel wings in the snow, and even such ethereal notions as the Butterfly Effect.
With a satisfying mixture of dialogue and singing we are brought into the story and given a dozen and a half musical routines that are pleasingly performed with Klena’s pleasant tenor and Moreno’s clear baritone. Each brings life and resonance to such compositions as Write What You Know (Klena), People Carry On (Moreno), The Greatest Gift (Klena and Moreno), The Butterfly (Klena), Independence Day (Moreno), and their final duet, Angel in the Snow.
The Story of My Life brought tears to this writer’s eyes. And though it is a screened event, the production is so well-crafted and modulated that it’s well worth experiencing even if it’s through a screen. The Story of My Life continues through June 6. Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets visit www.ChanceTheater.com or call (888) 455-4212.