The Last Five Years

Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years is not an easy undertaking. In fairness it wasn't written to be. Compton Little Theatre is the company who have brought this to C Venues this year, with an appropriately simple set and minimal piano accompaniment.

It's a brave choice of musical; there really is nowhere to hide.

This two person show puts all its faith in its leads as they take us on a vice versa account of a relationship from start to finish, each from their different perspectives. As Kathy takes us backwards, from break-up back in time to first date, Jamie takes us in the chronologically correct order, the plot unfolding back and forth between the two. As we watch Cathy's character falling back into happiness, Jamie represents the relationships struggles and ultimately its end. You know from the start how it's going to go with these two, and yet this way of showing it is beautifully written by JRB to make it all the more heart wrenching to watch.

This however was sadly missed by this production. To be frank, within bars of the keyboard playing I was concerned as the volume was so low, especially for such a small venue. The reason for this quickly became apparent. Neither Emma Hough's Cathy, nor David Oliver's Jamie had any where near the vocal ability to carry the score of this show. It quite genuinely was not for lack of trying, as both actors slogged hard to get through it and I willed them to pull it from somewhere. They were likeable and enthusiastic but unfortunately it came down to an undeniable lack of vocal skill. Both actors showed a lovely tone at times and sat reasonably comfortably in the lower registers of their voices however, struggled with any attempt at belting out the higher notes that make this show what it is.

The direction from Alison Lawrence was also far too literal and squashed the subtleties of the lyrics. Numerous unnecessary costume changes did nothing to add to the production and felt, at times, quite awkward.

It's a brave choice of musical; there really is nowhere to hide. Part of me has to respect this group for taking it on. However my overwhelming sense as the show ended was that somewhere down the line of their production process, someone could have, and should have, stepped back and realised that it was just too much for these young actors to achieve. 

Reviews by Hannah Lucy Baker

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The Blurb

Jason Robert Brown's acclaimed musical. Told through both powerful and comic songs, and chronicling the five-year life of a marriage, from meeting to break-up... or from break-up to meeting, depending on your point of view. Now a major film, Compton Little Theatre presents the story of Cathy and Jamie's relationship journey: the amazing rush of first love, marriage, career and eventual breakdown. Experience laughter, betrayal and heartbreak. An evocative, funny and intimate show. Who will gain your sympathy?