Yay… there’s a musical in town that’s a must-see.
But it’s not the highly-promoted 9 to 5 QPAC show. Instead, make tracks to La Boite Theatre and catch The Last Five Years while you can.
Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years has been a popular show since its earliest performances (2001) and off-Broadway success (2002). But it was new to me.
The Last Five Years relates the story of two 20-something New Yorkers, who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.
Darren Yap (Director) describes The Last Five Years as a ‘complex song cycle.’
‘Complex’ because the husband retells the story in chronological order, while the wife shares her memories in reverse.
And a ‘song cycle’ because the show is sung-through (that is, there is hardly any spoken dialogue), which means that the two performers need to be able to sustain the show across the full 90 minutes.
Danielle Remulta (Cathy) and Robert Tripolino (Jamie) are well-cast.
Great vocal work, with a real sense of a passionate love affair that didn’t translate into a long marriage and insights as to how both characters felt about their parting.
Tripolino gives a standout performance: wonderful vocal range, great enunciation and perfectly able to convey the breadth of emotions, from the impetuous falling in love to the sadness that the relationship was over.
Remulta has a lovely voice and really conveyed the frustrations of being a wannabe performer (a great ‘A Summer in Ohio’) but I would have liked a better sound balance for some of the big notes (my ears were ringing a little when I left) and in a show where the story is sung, it’s important that the audience can hear every word.
I loved the staging. Darren Yap and Chloe Greaves (Set & Costume Designer) used the La Boite Roundhouse space to full effect, as the actors entered and/or left through the aisles and across the three levels of the set.
The score is wonderful (Jason Robert Brown, writer and composer), and the musicians were excellent.
Placing the instrumentalists on stage (again, across three levels) created a sense of a busy New York skyline, as well as making the musicians part of the action.
Hats off to James Dobinson (Music Director and piano), Annie Silva (Violin), David Freisberg (Cello), Dr. Danielle Bentley (Cello), Joel Woods (Guitar) and Patrick Farrell (Bass Guitar); to pull off such a memorable performance when seated in three different spaces onstage is to be applauded.
There is a but. Having decided not to read anything about the show until after the performance, I completely missed the ‘he said/she said’ forwards/backwards telling of the story (his in chronological order and hers in reverse).
Which meant that there were moments when I wondered if Remulta was playing the former wife and the new lover.
Perhaps a clearer use of the space (his space/her space?), of a clock (going forward and then backwards?), or even the design of the set itself might have helped. But if you are reading this before you go to the show, or read the program notes while waiting to go in, then you won’t have the same occasional confusion.
But (!) this does not stop me from wholeheartedly recommending this show. Go for the music, for the performances (in particular to see Robert Tripolino), and for the staging and design; and enjoy the conversations afterwards about the ‘he said/she said’ story.
Great show, great musicians, great staging, and a great evening out.