Review: The Last 5 Years

An emotionally powerful and intimate musical, The Last 5 Years charts the relationship of Cathy and Jamie, the story beginning with Cathy at the start of their five years together and Jamie at the end.  Through a collection of inter-cutting scenes, almost entirely through-composed, we watch Jamie move forward in time as Cathy moves backwards, the two characters only meeting once in the middle of the show where time reaches the same point for their wedding.

Cathy is a performer who has been turned down by a theatrical agent and her career is struggling.  Jamie is a writer, his career beginning to soar with the publication of his first book.  Jamie’s commitment to his writing creates a divide between the two and as Cathy moves to Ohio for a summer job, Jamie goes to visit her and proposes.  Following their marriage, Jamie finds his vow to Cathy straying as he gains new popularity through his writing and he becomes unfaithful.  At the end of the play we see Cathy bidding Jamie goodbye, glowing with happiness after their first date, and Jamie saying goodbye as he ends their five-year relationship.

The concept and writing of the piece is fantastically strong, with the textural complexity and the beauty of Jason Robert Brown’s score supporting the emotional charge of the story with perfection.  The orchestration for piano and small strings gives a distinctive style and quality to the music and Lee Freeman’s musical direction is near spot-on.  Ben M Rodgers’ design is strong with a nice concept however it lacks a little further inspiration and detail, not entirely serving the director with any room for variation.  Drew Baker’s direction was rather literal at times and often repetitive, with more reasoning and deeper thought needed as it never felt fully informed about the decisions in the piece.

Lauren Samuels as Cathy demonstrates amazing vocal ability, clear and powerful emotion, though a little more subtlety is needed at times within the intimate space of the pub theatre, this is not aided however by a poor sound design.  Christopher Pym’s Jamie is captivating with great vocal tone and ability, with his emotional levels reaching the mark by the later numbers.  Overall the depth of the emotion and the delicate intricacy required at times is not quite reached, however I have no doubts that this will be achieved as the show settles in.

Runs until 5th March 2011 at the Tabard Theatre, W4 1LW.

Copyright © theatreJunki 2011.

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