The Last Five Years

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The Last Five Years
The Last Five Years CD Cover.jpg
2002 Album Cover
MusicJason Robert Brown
LyricsJason Robert Brown
BookJason Robert Brown
Productions2001 Chicago
2002 Off-Broadway
2005 Germany
2006 London
2007 Edinburgh Fringe
2009 Barcelona
2010 Sweden
2012 Denmark
2013 Off-Broadway revival
2014 Film
2014 Norway
2015 Finland
2015 Denmark
2015 Ireland
2016 Madrid
2016 Poland
2016 West End
2017 Melbourne
2017/2018 Mexico
2018 Barcelona revival
2018 Israel
2018 Stockholm
2018 Dallas, Texas
2018 Edinburgh Fringe
2018 São Paulo, Brazil
2019 Syracuse, NY
2019 Edinburgh
2019 Istanbul, Turkey
2020 London

The Last Five Years is a musical written by Jason Robert Brown. It premiered at Chicago's Northlight Theatre in 2001 and was then produced Off-Broadway in March 2002. Since then it has had numerous productions both in the United States and internationally.

The story explores a five-year relationship between Jamie Wellerstein, a rising novelist, and Cathy Hiatt,[1] a struggling actress. The show uses a form of storytelling in which Cathy's story is told in reverse chronological order (beginning the show at the end of the marriage), and Jamie's is told in chronological order (starting just after the couple have first met). The characters do not directly interact except for a wedding song in the middle as their timelines intersect.

Inspiration[edit]

The Last Five Years was inspired by Brown's failed marriage to Theresa O'Neill. O'Neill sued Brown on the grounds that the story of the musical violated non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements within their divorce decree by representing her relationship with Brown too closely. Brown, in turn, sued O’Neill for interfering with his creative work and his creative process. As part of the legal settlement for both suits, Brown removed all references to the character being Irish Catholic, and changed the song "I Could Be in Love With Someone Like You" to "Shiksa Goddess" in order to reduce the similarity between the character, Cathy, and O'Neill.[2][3]

Synopsis[edit]

Cathy is sitting alone lamenting the end of her marriage ("Still Hurting"). We shift to meet Jamie. It is five years earlier and he has just met Cathy. Jamie is overjoyed to be dating outside his Jewish heritage ("Shiksa Goddess").

Cathy and Jamie are in Ohio. It is her birthday and he has come to visit her as she works in a show there ("See I'm Smiling"). She is anxious to fix any problems in their marriage but she becomes angry when Jamie tells her he has to go back early to New York. During breaks in the music, we see a younger Jamie, talking to a literary agent about his book.

Jamie is moving in with Cathy. He comments on how lucky he is that everything is going right for him; his book is being published and his life with Cathy seems too good to be true ("Moving Too Fast"). Elsewhere an older Cathy is making a call to her agent: it seems her career isn't going the way she planned it.

Cathy is attending Jamie's book party. She sings about how he ignores her for his writing but she will always be in love with him ("I'm a Part of That").

Jamie and Cathy celebrate their second Christmas. He tells her a new story he has written about an old tailor named Schmuel and he gives her a Christmas present: a watch, promising to support her as she follows her dreams of acting. ("The Schmuel Song").

Cathy is in Ohio and writing to Jamie. She describes to Jamie her disappointing life in Ohio among her eccentric colleagues ("A Summer in Ohio").

Jamie is sitting with Cathy in Central Park. Jamie proposes to her and, for the first time in the musical, they sing together ("The Next Ten Minutes"). They get married, exchanging vows to stay together forever.

Jamie is facing temptation from other women, especially now his career as a writer has escalated ("A Miracle Would Happen"). Cathy, meanwhile, is auditioning for a role ("When You Come Home to Me"). She is getting down about the rejection she faces as an actress and complains to Jamie ("Climbing Uphill").

Jamie speaks to Cathy on the phone, trying to convince her that there is nothing going on with him and his editor, Elise. He wants to celebrate a book review but Cathy refuses to go out.

Jamie is fighting with Cathy, trying to get her to listen to him. He accuses her of being unsupportive of his career just because hers is failing. Though his words are harsh, he promises her that he believes in her ("If I Didn't Believe in You").

A younger Cathy is in the car with Jamie, who is going to meet her parents. She tells him about her past relationships and hopes not to end up in a small town life like her friend from high school ("I Can Do Better Than That"). She asks Jamie to move in with her.

Near the end of the relationship Jamie wakes up beside another woman ("Nobody Needs to Know"). He tries to defend his actions and blames Cathy for destroying his privacy and their relationship. Jamie promises not to lie to this woman and tells her that "I could be in love with someone like you," just as he does to Cathy in "Shiksa Goddess."

Cathy is ecstatic after her first date with Jamie. She sings goodbye ("Goodbye Until Tomorrow"). She proclaims that she has been waiting for Jamie her whole life. Simultaneously but five years forward, Jamie sits in their shared apartment writing laments over the relationship ("I Could Never Rescue You"). As Cathy waves Jamie "goodbye until tomorrow", Jamie wishes Cathy simply "goodbye".

Music[edit]

The musical style draws on a number of musical genres, including pop, jazz, and classical, klezmer, Latin, Rock, and Folk. The orchestration consists of piano, acoustic guitar, fretless bass, two cellos, one doubling on celesta and tubular bell, and violin, doubling cymbal.

  • "Still Hurting" - Cathy
  • "Shiksa Goddess" - Jamie
  • "See I'm Smiling" - Cathy
  • "Moving Too Fast" - Jamie
  • "I'm A Part of That" - Cathy
  • "The Schmuel Song" - Jamie
  • "A Summer in Ohio" - Cathy
  • "The Next Ten Minutes" - Jamie & Cathy
  • "A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home to Me" - Jamie/Cathy
  • "Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence" - Cathy
  • "If I Didn't Believe in You" - Jamie
  • "I Can Do Better Than That" - Cathy
  • "Nobody Needs to Know" - Jamie
  • "Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You" - Jamie & Cathy
Source: [4]

Cast album[edit]

The Last Five Years cast album was released by Sh-K-Boom Records in April 2002.[5]

Original casts[edit]

Character Chicago (2001) Off-Broadway (2002) Off-Broadway (2013) Film adaptation (2014) West End (2016) São Paulo (2018) Off-West End (2020)
Jamie Wellerstein Norbert Leo Butz Adam Kantor Jeremy Jordan Jonathan Bailey Beto Sargentelli Oli Higginson
Cathy Hiatt Lauren Kennedy Sherie Rene Scott Betsy Wolfe Anna Kendrick Samantha Barks Eline Porto Molly Lynch

Production history[edit]

Original Chicago production[edit]

The show debuted at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois in 2001, running from May–July 1. The production starred Lauren Kennedy as Cathy and Norbert Leo Butz as Jamie.[6] Kennedy had a previous commitment (a role in South Pacific in London) and was replaced by Sherie Rene Scott.[7] Scott, therefore, performed the vocals on the cast recording.

Off-Broadway[edit]

The show opened Off-Broadway at the Minetta Theatre on March 2, 2002 and closed May 5, 2002, directed by Daisy Prince, with Butz and Scott again starring.[8] The production won the 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics, as well as receiving Drama Desk nominations for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor, Outstanding Actress, Outstanding Orchestrations, and Outstanding Set Design.[9] It also received the Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Actor, and the Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical.

Off-Broadway revival[edit]

The show was revived in 2013 Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre for a limited engagement with Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe in the roles of Jamie and Cathy, respectively. Brown himself directed.[10] In March 2015, Kantor and Wolfe reprised their roles in a two-night-only concert production of the show at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.[11]

European Premieres[edit]

The show premiered in Paris, France[12] in 2013 presented by American Musical Theatre Live featuring Jonathan Wagner as Jamie and Miranda Crispin as Cathy. [13]

The show was given its Northern Irish premiere at The Lyric Theatre, Belfast in 2015, running for a limited engagement. It starred Fra Fee as Jamie and Amy Lennox as Cathy. The production was directed by Stephen Whitson.[14]

The show premiered in Stockholm, Sweden at Teaterstudio Lederman in April 2018. It starred Emil Nyström as Jamie and Cilla Silvia as Cathy. The production was directed by Robin Karlsson, with music direction by Johan Mörk.[15]

There will be a premiere of the show in Basel, Switzerland presented by Boutique Theatre Basel in June 2019.

In Concert[edit]

On September 12, 2016, Jason Robert Brown, along with SubCulture, presented a one night only benefit for the Brady Center to prevent gun violence. The Town Hall in New York City hosted this event. Cynthia Erivo played Cathy and Joshua Henry played Jamie. Jason Robert Brown conducted the orchestra.[16]

London[edit]

On October 29, 2016, Samantha Barks and Jonathan Bailey took on the roles of Cathy and Jamie at the St. James Theatre (Off West End).[17]

The musical plays at the Southwark Playhouse from February 2020, ending on 28 March 2020, with direction by Jonathan O'Boyle and starring Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson.[18] The production received overwhelmingly positive reviews. WhatsOnStage writes "You won't have seen a better production of The Last Five Years... It is the definitive production - beg, borrow or steal a ticket".[19] Tim Bano, joint lead critic for The Stage, wrote "Higginson and Lynch are insanely good" and praised O'Boyle's "forensic" interrogation of the material, writing "He doesn't reinvent Brown's material, but does completely revitalise it, so that it's like seeing the show, thrillingly, for the first time".[20] The production featured new orchestrations by George Dyer. The show was nominated for 8 Off-West End Awards including for Lead Performance in a Musical for both Lynch and Higginson respectively, O'Boyle for Best Director, Dyer for Musical Direction, and Lee Newby for both Costume Design and Set Design. The run was cut short on March 18 due to the closing of theatres because of the coronavirus pandemic.[21]

Syracuse Stage[edit]

In June 2019, the musical was directed by Jason Alexander in a production in Syracuse, New York. Alexander introduced two dancers who shadow the characters of Jamie and Cathy; reviewer Linda Lowen wrote "With approval from Brown, Alexander's vision has resulted in a production more interactive, more compelling, more visual, and more suited to those twenty-something millennials who -- like Jamie and Cathy -- grapple with love, career, independence and commitment."[22]

Film adaptation[edit]

An adaptation starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan was directed by PS, I Love You director Richard LaGravenese.[23] The film premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, and had a limited release in theatres in 2015. It received mixed to positive reviews.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, Jason Robert (22 May 2012). "The Schmuel Song". Jason Robert Brown. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  2. ^ Vogel, Scott (June 17, 2005). "Young Composer's Wonder "Years"". Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  3. ^ [1] New York post, March 6, 2002
  4. ^ MTI Shows song list MTI shows
  5. ^ "The Last Five Years Original Off-Broadway Cast". Cast Albums. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
  6. ^ Jones, Kenneth.Marriage Dissected: Brown's Musical, Last Five Years, Opening May 23 in IL" Playbill.com, May 23, 2001
  7. ^ "Talkin' Broadway - Sound Advice: 4/16/03". Talkinbroadway.com. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  8. ^ Brantley, Ben.Novelist and an Actress Sharing a Leaky Boat"[dead link] The New York Times, March 4, 2002
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth; Simonson, Robert."Drama Desk Awards Announced; Goat, Metamorphoses Tie for Best Play, Millie Scores" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine Playbill.com, May 20, 2002
  10. ^ Hetrick, Adam (May 30, 2012). "Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years Will Get Off-Broadway Revival at Second Stage". Playbill.com. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  11. ^ "Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor Reprise Roles in THE LAST FIVE YEARS, Beginning Tonight at A.C.T". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  12. ^ Andrew Gans (June 7, 2013). "Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's Edges. Will Make Paris Debuts for Limited Engagement". Playbill.
  13. ^ Bryan Pirolli. "The Last 5 Years". TimeOut Paris.
  14. ^ "The Last Five Years – Lyric Theatre, Belfast". Musical Theatre Review. 1 July 2015.
  15. ^ Stolt, Annette. "BWW Review: THE LAST 5 YEARS at TeaterStudio Lederman". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  16. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie. "What Happened at Last Night’s 'Last Five Years' Concert?" playbill, September 13, 2016
  17. ^ "Samantha Barks and Jonathan Bailey Lead The Last Five Years starting October 28th" broadwayworld, October 27, 2016
  18. ^ Meyer, Dan. "London Revival of 'The Last Five Years' Finds Its Cathy and Jamie" Playbill, January 24, 2020
  19. ^ "Review: The Last Five Years (Southwark Playhouse) | WhatsOnStage". www.whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  20. ^ "The Last Five Years review, Southwark Playhouse, London, 2020". The Stage. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  21. ^ Wolf, Matt (2020-03-19). "Last Nights on London's Stages, Before the Lights Went Out". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  22. ^ Lowen, Linda (June 2, 2019). "'Last Five Years' at Syracuse Stage a unique, gorgeous and innovative production (Review)". Syracuse Post-Standard.
  23. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick Will Explore The Last Five Years On Screen in Richard LaGravenese Adaptation". Archived from the original on 2013-02-24. Retrieved 2013-03-08.

External links[edit]