By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Dec 06, 2015 at 11:03 AM

So this is what it’s like to climb inside someone else’s relationship and laugh and cry and be filled with the wonder at how these two people develop as individuals and how they develop as a couple.

Not lovers, no. But friends. Men who are friends, as close as lovers, as bound as brothers under the skin, with all the good times and rough patches of any relationship.

It’s "The Story of My Life," the musical being presented by the ever-surprising Milwaukee Opera Theatre, under the ever-challenging artistic director Jill Anna Ponasik. The production is taking place in Boswell Books on Downer Avenue.

"Story" tells the tale of Alvin and Thomas, best friends since childhood, and it begins with Thomas struggling to write the eulogy for his friend, who jumped or fell off a bridge where they had played as children.

Tom, a professional writer, struggles to write something that has meaning, but tears up draft after draft. Alvin appears and tells Tom just to tell a story, and thus begins a series of flashbacks of the stories of their life.

The stories begin when they became friends as 6-year-olds and continue – making snow angels, sneaking into a funeral and seeing their first dead person, saying goodbye for the first time – all of which show the growth and the steps forward and steps backward that are the most substantive feature of every mature relationship.

And this is a mature relationship between these two men. Tom left home for the city and became famous as a writer of stories. Alvin was left behind, running the bookstore started like his father.

The musical is a series of stories, stories from moments in their lives together.

Every Christmas eve we’d make angels in the snow
Just like every other kid in town has done
We’d stretch out our arms and legs.We’d wave them two and fro
In a halo of the late December sun
And once a year we’d believe there was magic in the air
For the angels that were lying there."

The show is set in Boswell with shelves marked World History, True Crime, Mystery, Cloak and Dagger, Science and, finally and most tellingly, Relationships, serving as the backdrop with only a chair, table podium and library ladder as the entire set.

The idea belongs to Jill Anna Ponasik, the artistic director of MOT, an impresario without fear and with a seemingly severe case of lust for music that tells a story. She is, after all, the producer who staged an opera about a monkey, the spectacular story about "Lucy."

This story about two men is no less daring. Who stages a musical about two men who are friends and whose story is free of cheating, stressful situations where one comes to the rescue or where one is gay and harbors a love for his straight friend?

This production is directed by C. Michael Wright, the producing artistic director of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre with music direction by Anne Van Deusen.

Alvin is played by Doug Clemons and Tom is Adam Estes, both men who can sing and act with the kind of genuine reality that makes you love who they are.

Tom is driven to be a writer. Alvin is mildly content to run the bookstore "The Writer’s Block."

Clemons is gently satisfied staying home while Estes is more than ready to get out and start his real life. Clemons is marvelous, capturing both the satisfaction with a part of his life and his constant longing for more for his friend. When Estes leaves, it’s a sad moment, but like a best friend, Clemons wishes nothing but the best for his friend.

Estes, on the other hand, gloriously embraces his success as a writer but is decidedly mixed over the declination of his friendship with Alvin.

It’s hard to overstate the emotional wallop of this production. It doesn’t hit you over the head but sneaks into the deepest recess of your heart, filling you with a warmth and wonder over two men who are what we all hope to have, best friends.

"The Story of My Life" runs through Dec. 13 and information on showtimes and tickets is available here.

Production Credits: Stage Director, C. Michael Wright; Music Director: Anne Van Deusen; Reeds, Glen Quarrie; Lighting Design, Antishadows; Costume design, Jason Orlenko; Graphic Design, Andrea Klohn;  Stage Manager, Jim Padovano.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.