“The Last Five Years” by Jason Robert Brown is a musical theater cult classic. The show follows a couple’s journey through their relationship over a five year span. Jamie Wellerstein is a novelist on the rise and Cathy Hyatt is an actress who is struggling to get her big break. Cathy tells the story from the end of their marriage to the beginning and Jaime tells it from just after they meet until the end. They only meet in the middle for their marriage song which is absolutely breathtaking. I’ve been listening to the cast recording for years and it is one of my all time favorite shows.
Going into the show I highly expected to love Betsy Wolfe (Cathy) and was truly unsure what I would think of Adam Kantor (Jamie). I wasn’t sold on him seeing as the only thing I knew of him was YouTube videos but I have to say, Adam blew my mind. Seriously. His acting choices were right on, his singing was incredible and his emotions were real. I could watch him for days. Betsy hit some incredible notes and can definitely sing. During “I Can Do Better Than That” I nearly fell out of my seat during one of her belting moments. I gasped, my sister looked at me and we both smiled a large grin of acceptance. However, I found many of her acting choices to be a bit annoying, too clean, and her back-phrasing was distracting. I wanted to pick her up and sit her next to the pianist so she could get it. Oddly enough I usually sympathize for Cathy but this time I was rooting for Jamie.
The orchestra. Stop. I may cry just writing about them. They were beautiful. I could not get over how much I loved every note they played. The lyrics in “The Last Five Years” are so incredible but if you took them away the music could still stand alone and be absolutely lovely. The set was wonderful and had each instrument on a scaffolding platform of its own that was elevated above the two actors. The props were minimal such a a Christmas tree, telephone, boat, windows and a few others which was nice because it alluded to things but did not give you too much and allowed you to focus on the people and music. Projections were used which worked in only one scene for me “The Schmuel Song”, which Adam executed so well.
All in all the show was wonderful. I spent 90 minutes crying. Yes, tears of joy, due to the beauty that was taking place on stage. I would highly recommend seeing the show. It is playing at the Second Stage Theatre for a limited engagement and if you are in New York City you do not want to miss it!