Joy and angst make powerful bedfellows in this all-sung, two-person musical, which moves forward in time for one and backward for the other.
We – the audience – know the outcome from the first number, but we don’t know how or why the couple got there.
Jamie Wellerstein (Andrew Dempster) is a good Jewish boy and a newly successful writer who falls head over heels in love with Cathy Hiatt (Emily Jean Mill).
From his perspective, The Last Five Years works its way from the start of their relationship (when he was 23 years of age) to when things start to fray and eventually break.
Photos by Grace Dennehy
Cathy is a struggling actress, particularly interested in musical theatre, but she hasn’t managed to secure her big breakthrough.
From her perspective, the musical works in reverse, that is from destructive to delirious.
Along the way, the pair gets engaged and then married.
His newfound success sees him working feverishly, travelling frequently, attending parties and events to promote his writing.
Soon enough that creates distance between them and then resentment. They argue. Temptation rears its ugly head. Resistance reaches the point of no return.
By now, pardon the pun, the writing is on the wall.
The Last 5 Years is a moving, angst riddled work, written and composed by Jason Robert Brown.
It is his “artistic” take on his failed marriage.
The musical premiered in Chicago in 2001 and was then produced off Broadway the following year.
I found myself wanting to intervene, to try to re-set the dynamic between this duo. In short, that showed how much I cared.
Emily Jean Mill has a powerful voice and is particularly adept in the lower registers.
Andrew Dempster impresses with his vocal acuity.
Both provoke “feelings” as they deftly navigate the requirements of their roles.
Joel Armour provides strong direction, while the band – led by musical director Naomi Bruhn – does much of the heavy lifting behind the scenes.
The domestic setting is well captured by production designer Grace Dennehy.
The set consists of an isolated, hard wooden chair, a set of wooden drawers with a small coffee table next to it, a dining room table and chairs, and a wall cabinet.
A washing line strung behind the couch, containing polaroids of the couple’s lives together, is hard to miss and a prop I found particularly evocative.
The intimate nature of the piece is well captured by Broadway Obsessive Disorder, for whom The Last 5 Years is its first fully staged production.