This intimately beautiful little chamber musical closed almost instantly, shuttering in a nowadays unheard-of five performances, even less than High Fidelity. But this was largely due to a mix of lacking any of the usual commercial draws (a tiny two-person show written by newcomers in a post-Sondheim style, it might have had better success off-Broadway) and the fact that New York Times idiot Ben Brantley completely failed to appreciate it, not because there was anything wrong with it artistically.
It was in fact the best show to flop since A Man of No Importance in 2003, a tender, beautifully written story about two childhood friends who are tragically separated by their future decisions with an exquisitely beautiful score. In many ways, it resembled another beautiful flop from a few years later, Big Fish. Both shows were beautiful masterpieces with undeservedly short runs, both dealt with similar subjects (the inspirational impact one person has on another through the medium of storytelling), and both got absolutely pissed on by Brantley because apparently his entire motivation for becoming a critic is that he hates his readers and doesn’t want them to have nice things.
Brantley bluntly wrote this show off as a gender-flipped Chick Flick, comparing it heavily to Beaches, but even if the plots of the two works are vaguely similar, this show is far more subtle and delicate than Beaches, and relies far less on overwrought dramatic confrontations (indeed, part of the show’s point is that the two characters never confront each other about their differences). It is totally unafraid to be sentimental, but it never indulges in melodramatic emotional fireworks, and remains thoroughly grounded in the ordinary details of life. Its plot has received accusation of being ‘cliche’ (Brantley again), but if it seems familiar, it’s only because of how beautifully the show captures the human experiences all of us have been through. I mean, who hasn’t felt the sorrow of growing apart from a beloved childhood friend?
Will Chase and Malcolm Gets gave performances of enormous honesty and nuance as frustrated writer Thomas and sweet, tragic free spirit Alvin, and the score is an endless stream of beautiful melody. For the most part, it is integrated seamlessly into the action, but there is one stunning individual set piece…Will Chase’s character’s first short story, “The Butterfly”, which is quite literally one of the most ravishing and moving songs I have ever heard in a Broadway show. Brantley found some superficial similarities to “Wind Beneath My Wings” in this song, and indeed they are both based on almost the same image, but it’s hardly fair to compare a complex, poetic post-Sondheim story ballad to an overtly commercial Easy-Listening pop tune. This show deserves vastly better than it got, and I highly recommend seeking it out in any form you can find, as the emotional power of its story and the breathtaking beauty of its score rank alongside the best shows of its decade.