In My Life

  • Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Book, music and lyrics by: Joe Brooks
    Directed by: Joe Brooks
    Produced by: TBF Music Corp
    Cast: Jessica Boevers, Christopher J. Hanke, Roberta Gumbel, Chiara Navarra.
    Synopsis: A musician with Tourette�s syndrome and a journalist with obsessive compulsive disorder meet cute at a grocery store - with some help from above - and begin an unlikely and slightly dysfunctional romance that proves that life�s greatest affliction is the one they share � true love.
     

    The advance word on In My Life, which just opened at the Music Box, was bad. With a book, music and lyrics and directed by Joseph Brooks (best known as the composer of that treacly anthem �You Light Up My Life� and various commercial jingles), the expectations of the �in� theater crowd were low. Now the major critics are falling all over themselves to carve it up. The reviews are so bad that I�m sure there are sadists out there who will regard it as another Moose Murders, the famous Broadway bomb that rates a poster at Joe Allen�s saloon and every theater-goer wishes he had seen.

    Take my word for it. In My Life is no Moose Murders. Oh, it�s bad all right. Very bad. The basic plot is as old as the hills. Boy meets girl. Boy beds girl. They fall in love. They get married. The only possible interest is in the distractions from that basic theme. They include (in no particular order) giant lemons, God in a backwards baseball cap, a precocious young singer-dancer in a tutu, an Alan Cumming-look-alike flying about Peter Pan-style, an Italian aria among a bunch of Top 40 fodder, a huge file-room staffed by clerks in white polyester wigs, a shiny blue Schwinn bicycle, three dead characters prancing around the stage, and lots of illness, mainly Tourette�s syndrome** (the uncontrollable urge to curse) and brain tumors.

    To the constipated plot, add loads of insipid lyrics like: �When I sing I�m all right. I�m a king when I sing.� or �In my life, I knew you were meant for me. In my life, there would be you.� or (and to me this IS a classic) �You�ve got to listen to your mouth.� The accompanying tunes are totally forgettable.

    I really can�t imagine what a capable production team like Allen Moyer (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes) and Christopher Akerlind (lighting) thought they were creating. But a lot of money was spent. And the cast headed by the pert Jessica Boevers as the girl and the bland Christopher J. Hanke as the boy may be talented, but who could tell in this mess.

    I�m sure there are commentators who are going to find significance in the fact that In My Life made it to Broadway with all the attendant bright lights and publicity. To me, it is a Joseph Brooks vanity production and that�s all. He�s been a schlock-meister in the past. And that�s what this is. Schlock.

    ** Addendum
    (Reader Barbara Mantel contacted us to let us know that Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder which is characterized by uncontollable motor and vocal tics. Only about 10% of people with Tourette have coprolalia--the "urge to curse."
    You can learn more about Tourette Syndrome at the following website:
    New York City Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Association

     

     

    What the critics had to say.....

    BEN BRANTLEY of the NEW YORK TIMES says �I dreamed I went to a Broadway show that was supposed to be madly eccentric and surreal, featuring a giant lemon, transvestite angel and a hero with Tourette's syndrome. But then, in one of those head-spinning shifts of setting that occur only in nightmares, I found myself trapped inside a musical Hallmark card, a pastel blend of the twinkly teddy bear and sentimental sunrise varieties. And suddenly, as the breath was leaving my body, I realized I was drowning, drowning in a singing sea of syrup.�
    HOWARD KISSEL of the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says "Rarely have I felt as keen a sense of anticipation in an audience as I did at Joseph Brooks' "In My Life." Advance word had it that this musical, by the composer of "You Light Up My Life," was going to be a disaster of legendary proportions. The letdown came early. "In My Life" is awful, but as disasters go, it's minor league."
    CLIVE BARNES of THE NEW YORK POST says "Fulfills every unpromise possible. In fairness, there is at times a kind of crazy professionalism lurking around in the wings that seems determined never to make it onstage."
    MICHAEL SOMMERS of STAR-LEDGER says "A professional crew of performers and designers do their darnedest to make this bizarre thing fly. Now and again, the musical manages to take off for a few minutes. While this un-reality show never really wings to anywhere profound, its tuneful high points can be weirdly enjoyable."
    JACQUES LE SOURD of the JOURNAL NEWS says "A picture of a giant lemon serves as the musical's final backdrop. An extremely close textual study of the script uncovers no explanation for this, other than J.T.'s declaration that "Lemon is something I say when I'm feeling good." Unfortunately, it's something a critic says when he's feeling queasy."
    MICHAEL KUCHWARA of ASSOCIATED PRESS says "It's more fun to talk about "In My Life," the bizarre new musical at Broadway's Music Box Theatre, than actually sit through it."

    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    New York Times
    New York Daily News
    New York Post
    Journal News
    Associated Press