Last seen in New York back in 2002, Jason Robert Brown's cult musical "The Last Five Years" has returned to the off-Broadway theater scene. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following report.
Jason Robert Brown's relationship musical "The Last Five Years" is extremely relatable. Ever been in love or had your heart broken? This show is for you.
Actually, the piece has long since found a large, loyal audience. After a brief run off-Broadway in 2002, it received scores of regional and college productions. Now it returns to New York with Brown in the director's chair. Is the romance still there? You bet it is.
"The Last Five Years" tells the story of a marriage, but in a very unconventional way, structured as a series of sung monologues. The lovers are Cathy, a struggling actress, and Jamie, a budding novelist whose career is taking off.
Brown creates a fractured time scheme: We meet Cathy at the bitter end of the relationship and track her backward to the beginning, alternating with scenes of Jamie first getting to know Cathy, bursting with hope but destined for an inevitable break-up.
In this clever way, they pass each other in time, isolated on their own chronological tracks. The device allows composer-lyricist Brown to alternate tender ballads of regret with joyous, up-tempo numbers.
The score is glorious, a skillful melding of pop and traditional post-Sondheim show tunes, with bits of klezmer and Irish folk thrown in.
The two performers couldn't be more charming. Betsy Wolfe is sweet and plucky, a natural comedian with a killer belt. As Jamie, Adam Kantor has a frisky ebullience that gives way to egotistical mood swings. These are not perfect people, and from the get-go we know it will end in tears, but Brown still generates so much musical joy that five years fly by too fast.
Lovely singing, smart tunes, a stylish production: what's not to love about "The Last Five Years"? If you're not already an admirer, you just may fall for it, hard.