Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
Director: Stephen Whitson
Reviewer: Caitriona M. Reilly
Blunt Fringe Productions present a beautiful production of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years. Starring Amy Lennox as Cathy and Fra Fee as Jamie, this is a production about falling in and out of love.
Jamie is an aspiring writer who falls in love with the beautiful Cathy, a struggling actress in New York. The action takes place over a five year period. Interestingly Cathy’s songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time, while Jamie’s songs start at the beginning of their relationship and move forward to the end of their marriage. The only time the actors ‘meet’ and engage with each other is at their wedding. The juxtaposition of these opposing movements in time, makes for a really interesting twist to the musical’s structure. Bar the wedding scene, the characters are blind to the other person moving around. This makes each character seem like a passing ghost in the other’s world of time.
Performed in the Naughton Studio at the Lyric, this is a charming production. The set by Matthew Forsythe and Mark Davidson is simple but practical. The thrust stage creates an intimate performance space which allows the actors to engage with all sides of the audience. The audience become voyeurs, watching the growth and dissolution of a relationship in a cramped New York studio apartment. Single light bulbs softly glow overhead while a ladder becomes a makeshift Christmas tree wrapped in fairy lights. Props are discovered in one of six small cubes which are moved around the stage to create new performance spaces and levels. It is enchantingly genius.
Fee and Lennox are both wonderful as Jamie and Cathy. There were a few minor hiccups on this production night, but these can be overlooked. Both Fee and Lennox had wonderful energy. Fee’s pulsating testosterone set hearts aflutter while Lennox was adorably funny. This production requires stamina and talent as it is an incredibly demanding show for any performer. For two performers to carry an entire musical – it is tough. Especially after only two weeks rehearsal. Credit however to Fee and Lennox because they delivered.
The Last Five Years is a brilliant little musical. Charming, funny, and engaging. Brown’s music smoothly switches from fun and catchy to melancholy in a matter of beats. The live band led by Mark McGrath were a fantastic ensemble who added to the charming intimacy of the show.
There were many delightful moments in this performance but one particular scenario involved Lennox sitting in the front row of the audience stage left. She engaged with one particular gentleman and they shared this magical glance which can only be obtained in the theatrical realm. (Kudos to director Stephen Whitson for this wonderful production but I feel that this particular incident was an accidental twinkling.)
The Last Five Years is for anyone who is in love, or has survived it.
Photo courtesy of the Lyric Theatre. Runs until 4th July