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The Last Five Years
a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Jason Robert Brown

COMPANY : Marietta Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre In The Square:Alley Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 5157

SHOWING : October 20, 2017 - November 04, 2017

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Join us on an emotional rollercoaster as we delve into Jamie’s and Cathy’s 5 year relationship; from beginning to end and end to beginning – simultaneously. A contemporary musical experience unlike any other, featuring music from Jason Robert Brown, and 2 of the best voices in Atlanta.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Zach Phelps
Cathy Stephanie Earle
Jamie J D Myers
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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A Green Musical?
by playgoer
Monday, October 23, 2017
3.5
The glossy, nicely laid-out program nevertheless has a comic aspect. A couple of sentences are cut off mid-way. The leading actor’s last name is spelled variously. And apparently the score belongs in a garbage heap, since the first page clearly states that "The Last Five Years" was "written and composted" by Jason Robert Brown. (At least the cover gets "composed" right.) It’s the first hint of a show that seems to have rushed some things at the last moment, with insufficient attention to detail.

Mike Clotfelter’s set design uses a single flat wall with doors on either side and a surprise feature in the middle. Boxes are piled against the wall, as of a room either having been packed up or not yet having been unpacked. It’s a nice indication of the backward/forward timeline of the show. An easy chair and a desk and chairs complete the set, with a couple of stools moved on and off for individual scenes. It’s hardly edgy or artistic, but it’s eminently workable.

Brad Rudy’s busy lighting scheme seems to be less a design than a by-the-seat series of adjustments to illuminate actors wherever they happen to land in the playing area. The constant adjustments become intrusive, although gradual dimming signals the ends of songs and scenes. The lighting changes may become more fluid as the run continues.

Director Zac Phelps has blocked the show so that sometimes the actors sing directly to the audience and sometimes stare off into space as they sing. The best bits of blocking add variety to this, such as using a cellphone or notepad to accompany the words being sung. Each of the actors uses the full extent of the stage, without one door or section of the stage being used exclusively by Cathy (Stephanie Earle) or Jamie (J D Myers).

Cathy’s story is told in reverse, starting with the dissolution of her marriage to Jamie and moving backward in time to the start of their relationship. Ms. Earle starts out distraught and dramatic, and never fully captures the giddy joy of a new relationship taking bloom. Her singing voice is strong, but not particularly pretty. That’s especially evident in Cathy’s audition song. The audition sequences themselves are funny, as the accompanist works at cross-purposes with the singer, but our initial introduction to the lovely song is not lovely at all.

Jamie’s story is told chronologically, as he transitions from a college student with a promising manuscript to a philandering, successful author. Mr. Myers is wonderful in the role, never more so than in "The Shmuel Song," in which the Aryan-looking Mr. Myers regales the invisible Cathy with a Yiddish-inflected tale in which he plays all the parts. His voice is strong and pure and his diction wonderful. It’s a fine, fine performance throughout.

The songs are accompanied by a five-piece band, led by music director Laura Gamble on the keyboard. Due to its loudness, the singers are miked. The sound balance is usually good, although Ms. Earle is sometimes too soft and indistinct in diction for all her words to come across. On opening night, the band sounded good up until the last couple of numbers, when stray bad notes crept in, just as indications of strain affected the voices of the two actors.

"The Last Five Years" is being given a creditable production by Marietta Theatre Company, but not one that illuminates the material in any special way. Zac Phelps presents Jason Robert Brown’s story in a straightforward way, with only a few touches that anchor the reversely told stories to specific moments in the relationship. It’s definitely a production that merits an audience member having some familiarity with the material before attending. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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