Archive review: The Last Five Years. Lakeside Arts Nottingham.

Archive review from an old theatre blog.

Reviewed 25th Feb 2014

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The simple stage setting for New Street Theatre’s production of The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown is two identical diluted apartments. Both sections are in black and white with white blinds at the back of a white table and two white chairs. Each apartment has a small pile of packing boxes and sets of half empty shelves that imply a state of impermanence. Stage design is by Georgia De Grey and the atmospheric lighting design by Jen Roxburgh. The piece allows the three musicians on piano, violin and cello to be seen throughout. The Last Five Years at the Djanogly Theatre Lakeside is a very sophisticated and stylish show directed by Martin Berry. It is produced with the support of Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol and Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham.

The show is a two hander and is a mainly sung through musical and has some interesting theatrical concepts in so much as the actors, Matthew Ronchetti (Jamie Wellerstein) and Roxanne Douro (Cathy Hiatt) tell and sing their relationship stories about the other person directly to the audience. Very rarely do they sing to each other to communicate feelings. The only time they sing together is at their wedding in the song ‘The Next Ten Minutes’. In this they promise to love each other forever but as we see from the sad opening number ‘Still Hurting’ sung with great passion and poignancy by Roxanne Douro, things haven’t been straight forward over the last five years. A very traditional play might have a beginning, middle and an end but in this case we have the fascinating perspective of being shown the story from the end by one person and from the beginning by the other. It works wonderfully well. Often in musical theatre the concentration is on the music and sung elements of a show and the acting as an afterthought. Not in this case – both emotionally complex characters are performed with great authenticity and spot on American accents.

There are fourteen songs, of various styles, in all and both Ronchetti and Douro perform the work beautifully accompanied by the equally talented musicians, Dan Turek (piano and musical director), Rachel Whalley (violin) and Laura Elliott (cello). The on/off relationship of two creatives at the opposite ends of success is very credible and at times raw but it also has a vein of amusing moments running throughout. Two good examples would be ‘The Schmuel Song’ performed by the character Jamie and cleverly interpreted by Roncetti and the ‘Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence’, a bitter sweet wry song delivered with energy, pin perfect timing and wit by Douro as Cathy. A fine and thought provoking, sophisticated evening’s entertainment.

The writer and composer, Jason Robert Brown has been hailed as one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim. He has an extra-ordinary back catalogue of shows and The Last Five Years was cited of one of Time Magazine’s ten best of 2001 and won Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics.

The Last Five Years runs until 26th February at Lakeside – NottinghamUniversity and is a professional production. Catch it while you can!


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