“The Last Five Years” is a contemporary story about a young, starry-eyed couple, whose love affair unfolds but from opposite ends of their five-year relationship; the fairy tale beginning and the not-so-happy ending. Jamie Wellerstein (Devin Archer) takes us back to idealistic times and relives his narrative in chronological order, while his wife, Cathy Hiatt (Natalie Storrs) shares her heart wrenching account in reverse chronological order. The unique twist is neither character fully interacts with one another except for a short timeline in the middle of their whirlwind romance.
Writer and lyricist, Jason Robert Brown’s inspiration for the emotionally charged musical touched home as it was based on his own failed first marriage. The original Off Broadway production made it’s debut back in 2002. Now McCoy Rigby Entertainment has enlist Ovation Award-winner Nick DeGruccio to direct this exquisite production at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts for a whole new generation of hopeless romantics to enjoy.
Musical Director, Brent Crayon did an outstanding job arranging Brown’s 14 songs-all varying in musical genres, while encompassing an orchestration of piano, guitar, cellos and violins.
We first meet Cathy (Natalie Storrs) in her once shared apartment crying over the painful dissolution of her marriage. She tries to make sense of it all in the haunting ballad “Still Hurting.” Storrs heartfelt performance was so compelling it often felt unsettling having an insight to the self-reflective, melancholic scene.
Next, we flash back five years in time, when Jamie (Devin Archer) is smitten over finally meeting, a non-Jewish girl (and his future wife) Cathy. He sings about his enthrallment in the song “Shiksa Goddess.” Casting Archer was perfect as he possesses universal appeal. His well-versed acting, soulful vocals and boyish humor contribute to his characters likeability factor-no easy feat considering-let’s face it-Jamie’s a jerk!
Problems in their relationship soon arise as we witness Jamie’s career as a novelist start to take off, meanwhile Cathy’s struggles of becoming an actress ensues. Each take turns singing a solo describing either their pleasures or foreshadowed fate concurrently.
Luckily, a few lighthearted moments added some playfulness and comic relief throughout the 90-minute tear jerker. Jamie’s Christmas anecdote about a tailor from Klimovich in “The Schumel Song” was catchy and perhaps a bit cheeky (no pun intended). Also, Cathy’s audition woes in “Climbing Uphill” gathered huge applause from the audience.
Scene Designer, Stephen Gifford helped create the perfect ambiance in the number “The Next Ten Minutes,” the only time Archer and Storrs come face to face. A scrim of Central Park scattered with falling rose petals was the perfect setup for the couples engagement and nuptials.
By far, one of my favorite elements of the production was the use of video projections designed by Keith Skrectch. During the closing number “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You” the audience is privy to an anthology of photographs featuring the couple-illuminated on the abstract backdrop creating a collage down memory lane.
Anyone who has experienced the life and death of a relationship will relate to this modern-day masterpiece. The Last Five Years will certainly tug on your heartstrings and implore the hope of finding everlasting love.
“The Last Five Years” is playing at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts now through February 12, 2017. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or Order Online.
Photos courtesy of Michael Lamont.