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The Last Five Years

a Musical
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA MUSICAL
by Jason Robert Brown

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 2522

SHOWING : October 25, 2007 - November 24, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

One of the most fascinating and acclaimed musicals of the past decade, The Last Five Years tenderly follows the five year marriage between Cathy and her husband Jamie. The story is at once told in reverse from Cathy’s point of view, and forward beginning with their first date from Jamie’s. The ingenious storytelling mixed with some of the most beautiful music written for the stage in the last decade makes The Last Five Years one of the top musical events of the Atlanta theatre season.


CAST & CREW LIST
Musical Director Ann-Carol Pence
Director Kate Warner
Props Master Elisabeth Cooper
Lighting Designer Karen Parsons
Pianist Kevin Sanders
Cathy Natasha Drena
Jamie Jonathan MacQueen
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Turning Back the Hands of Time
by Dedalus
Friday, November 30, 2007
4.5
(AfterNote: When I submitted this to Theatre Buzz last weekend, it carried a lower grade, due to my pickiness about the voice amplification. However, it has stayed in mind longer than a higher-graded play from the same weekend. Hence the upward shift in score.)

“The Last Five Years” is over and done. I’m assuming that, even as I write, the set is being struck to make way for the Christmas Season at Actor’s Express. If I had any sense, I’d end this pseudoreview here, and say “Good-bye” until my next column.

The play ends with Jamie and Cathy singing goodbye to each other. But, they’re five years apart in time – Cathy is saying “Goodbye” after their first “Were Falling in Love” Date. Jamie is saying “Goodbye” forever – the compromises, the emotional battlefields, his own lies have all become too much. The juxtaposition is striking. And it gives the characters equal validity, equal blame, equal pain. The balance that started out in Cathy’s favor has found equilibrium through the time-direction conceit.

The second half of the play is the degeneration of the marriage from Jamie’s point-of-view. (Cathy’s insecurities and passive-aggressive behaviors have, in his eyes, driven them apart.) It is also the build-up to marriage from Cathy’s point-of-view. (Her career is taking off just as his fame does. They are each other’s rock, each other’s inspiration.) It is here we hear her funny audition sequence, echoing what goes through all our heads as we enter the pressure cooker of an acting career. And, it is here we hear him being seduced by wealth, by fame, by his own talent, and by the someone who fills the space created by Cathy’s suspicions and accusations.

The middle of the play is one of the most achingly sad weddings you are likely to see. Or, to be more accurate, it is one of the happier weddings you are likely to see. What hurts is knowing what is to come, sensing what came before, seeing their happiness, and hearing the minor key of the music. This is the only time in the play Jamie and Cathy get to touch, to kiss. And it broke my heart.

It is at this point I appreciated the genius of the design. We know the character’s position in time by their position on the set. At this point, I’ve also grown irritated at the miking of the actors. It’s a small, acoustically excellent room. It is two marvelous singers with superb belt voices. The amplification only distorts, cracks, and cheapens their talent. I’ve been seduced by Natasha Drema’s Cathy, by her pain, by her story. I am in her corner. I found Jonathan MacQueen’s Jamie a bit mannered, with a “shaking hands” mannerism that reminded me more of Parkinson’s than of emotional intensity.

The first half of the play is the degeneration of the marriage from Cathy’s point-of-view. (Cathy’s career sending her to the wilds of Ohio and her suspicions of Jamie’s affairs.) It is also the build-up to marriage from Jamie’s point-of-view. (His writing career taking off. Kathy’s Acting/Singing career finding a foothold at his urgings.) It is here we hear his story about “Schmuel,” a tailor who is able to find happiness by turning back the hands of time. And it is here we hear about her “Summer in Ohio,” a show-stoppingly funny number that, strangely enough, is a foundation for everything that came before.

The play starts with Cathy’s pain-filled solo as she reads the “Goodbye” note Jamie will write at the end. This is shortly followed (five years earlier) by Jamie’s elation as he finally finds that “Shiksa Goddess” he knows will drive his family to distraction.

The first thing we see as we enter the auditorium is a long playing area between two separate and independent groups of audience. The setting is a warehouse collage of the detritus of a couple’s life, a chair here, a table there, a piece of wall at one end, a bed at the other, a round platform in the middle. How will this ever work?

I’ve loved the songs of “The Last Five Years” for the last three years. I’ve never seen a production until tonight. I can’t wait.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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Great!
by heartandmusic
Friday, November 16, 2007
4.5
Actors Express put on yet another wonderful production with The Last 5 Years. The set is spectacular...a great amount of different scenes take place in a such a small space, and is completely believable for the audience. The actors must play to both sides of the audience, as the set splits center of the theatre. Although sometimes it felt a little unnatural for the actors, they did a fabulous job playing to all audience members. However, for someone like me who sat in the corner, I missed alot of facial expression because I couldn't see their front side for large chunks of songs. Both actors are incredible. With only a few pitch problems, they are both magnificent singers and actors. It was interesting. I had never seen this show performed live, yet I am very familiar with the music. Since I had only heard Sherie Renee Scott and Norbert Leo Butz do it, it was a surprise to me when these actors started singing. Their voices were very distinct and very different from the recording. It took me a couple of songs to get used to the different qualities of their voices from what I was used to, but once I did, I fell in love with the characters. Both actors were incredibly dedicated and honest with their roles.


My favorite part of the production, I would have to say, is the technical side. The set was really great. And simple lighting created a very honest musical that the audience really could relate to.
And to mention the orchestra...they were very talented! Jason Robert Brown's compositions are not easy to master, but this orchestra played not one imperfect note. Great job.


I strongly suggest going to see this production before it closes. Congratulations Kate Warner and Actors Express! You've got another wonderful production on your hands. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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