If you walk into a production of The Last Five Years without any previous knowledge of the show things can get a little confusing. The off-Broadway musical puts a spin on the traditional plot structure by telling two stories simultaneously, Jamie and Cathy’s, but in opposite directions. Jamie starts at the beginning of their relationship, while Cathy opens the show in the aftermath of their breakup.
The performers are enthusiastic and rich with potential.
The musical numbers are a mixture of ernest, comedic, bittersweet and everything in between. Lori Davidson had us chuckling with her complaints about A Summer in Ohio, while Connor Burnett is convincingly tortured during If I Didn’t Believe in You. This is the kind of show that gives people a chance to show off their range—every emotion and singing style. While Davidson did an admirable job of tackling both heartbreak and humour, Burnett’s lack of enunciation made it difficult to follow some of the fast-paced pieces, although his talent shone through in the softer, more sorrowful moments.
A lot rides on the two actors to make us believe they are a real couple, and this is where the show falls down a bit. While Davidson and Burnett are extremely talented in their own right, the chemistry between Jamie and Cathy wasn’t strong enough to make us fully invest in their relationship. Even their duets, like the iconic The Next Ten Minutes, felt like individual performances—albeit very enjoyable ones. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that most of the numbers are sung at the other person rather than with them, but we should still feel the connection between two people in love on some level, even if it is nonverbal.
Overall, a competent portrayal of a challenging musical. The accompaniment is simple and straightforward, the backdrops help the audience place the scene (except for that image of Livraria Lello—was Jamie supposed to be in Portugal?) and the performers are enthusiastic and rich with potential.