A musical  yearning to be heard

The Last Five Years

Lichfield Garrick Studio


JASON Robert Brown is not well known this side of the pond. For someone who is arguably up there with Sondheim in terms of lyrical ability, it's about time we stood up and took notice.

The Last Five Years follows a relationship between two aspiring, New York creatives  - one a writer, the other an actress. An often tread storyline, it could be said, but what makes this so different is the unconventional time structure it uses.

Jamie, the writer, has his story portrayed chronologically whilst Cathy, the actress, has her story shown backwards - from where she is to where she was. They meet slap bang in the middle of each other's journey - at their wedding. A clever, almost Tarantinoesque, way of showing the passage of time.

The studio space at The Garrick lends itself well to this very personal piece of theatre. There can be absolutely no doubt that some things work better in a small space where subtleties and character nuances are not lost,  A musical two hander such as this is a perfect case in point. Facial expressions are seen, emotions are clear and sound clarity is crystal clear.

Kellie Humphrey as Cathy is a delight.  She sings technically well - hitting light and shade when needed and always with cut glass diction. What impresses more, though, is her ability to nail down a broad range of emotions and reactions - excited, smitten, frustrated, funny, angry - using facial expression and body language to good effect. So often in musical theatre, acting takes second place to big voices and lavish routines. It really shouldn't. When good voices and strong acting combine, the result is all the more truthful and real.

Oliver Rowe is the impoverished writer, Jamie.  He is chasing a dream that doesn't always sit well with a new and blossoming relationship. Inevitably, something has to give. Rowe delivers well, especially in the slower, more heartfelt numbers.  He also cries to order - no easy feat but proof he is ‘feeling' the lyrics.

The small, onstage band are faultless throughout - doing perfect justice to a clever, whimsical score.

An independent Director, able to sit and watch from the front, may have helped to tidy up bits of staging but in general the piece flowed well from scene to scene.

Jason Robert Brown deserves a far bigger audience in this country. He is without doubt one of the best modern day musical theatre composers and his lyrics are beautifully woven together. This production, too, is worthy of much more than a half full studio.

Tickets are available. I suggest you snap them up now before Mr Brown becomes the hot ticket he really should be.

Tom Roberts 


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