The Last Five Years
By Jason Robert Brown
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. Feb 25 to Mar 11
Reviewed by Lesley Rawlinson
Two players, one set, one act – I’m challenged to think of a more simply arranged musical and I think it’s the simplicity that allows the audience to become absorbed in this intense and emotional journey. Jamie Wellerstein is a young dynamic writer on the brink of a career break-through while his sweetheart, Catherine Hiatt, is struggling to make her mark in the theatre. We follow their five year relationship from opposing start points; travelling forwards through time with Jamie while plotting the reverse of the unravelling with Catherine.
Katie Birtill and Chris Cowley are a well match pair in these powerful roles and bring Jason Robert Brown’s beautiful score to life with ease. The chemistry between them is tangible and ever evolving. This is not a show filled with memorable melodies yet the delivery of every syllable, the unfolding of the story, and numerous show-stopping moments kept our minds and hearts engaged throughout.
Lead by Caroline Humphris, the five piece band – positioned high above the action but in full view – earned every clap of the generous applause they received. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that the soundtrack to this musical has become a favourite among Sondheim fans as, to my relatively uneducated ear, there were striking stylistic similarities.
This musical already has ardent followers and it’s not surprising. It’s the kind of story that you understand a little more from with every performance you take in. Charming, surprising, romantic, heartbreaking; a modern day musical that you should take the opportunity to see.