Reflections: THE LAST 5 YEARS, Starring Nikki Gil, Joaquin Valdes
By Cedrick Capati
Manila, Philippines--The first time I heard "Still Hurting," the first song in the hit Off-Broadway musical THE LAST 5 YEARS, I knew it was going to be one of my favorite heartbreak songs. I also had the chance to listen to the other songs written by Jason Robert Brown for THE LAST 5 YEARS; however, I still felt the strongest connection to "Still Hurting." It is a sad song, but once in a while the company of a sad song is well appreciated.
9 Works Theatrical, the theater company behind the new production of THE LAST 5 YEARS, which stars Nikki Gil and Joaquin Valdes, recently conducted a Facebook contest to promote the show. I joined the contest to score a pair of free tickets to the show's press preview held last weekend; I also thought it was already time for me to start supporting local musical theater productions. On the day before the preview, 9 Works Theatrical announced I won the contest--which felt really great!
On preview night, I entered the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium and first noticed Mio Infante's set design; the main set looked like photo frames, which represent memories--good and bad--accumulated over many years. Infante's set design contributed a lot to create the mood from one song to another. I was wondering though if the bed on stage symbolized the passage of time; I noticed the bed looked like spinning clock hands in several scenes.
Structure-wise, the musical follows a "he said, she said" storytelling device, but with a twist: Cathy's story (played by Nikki Gil) is told from the end of her marriage with Jamie (played by Joaquin Valdes) to the day they first met; Jamie's story, on the other hand, is told the other way around, which could be confusing if you did not have any prior knowledge about the structure of the musical. But for me, it was a unique, smart way to tell Cathy and Jamie's love story.
Nikki as Cathy was a revelation. I heard and read many rave reviews of her previous musical theater outings, but I never really believed those positive notices until she took me to a rollercoaster ride of emotions in THE LAST 5 YEARS. What was so amazing about Nikki's performance is her relatable vulnerability. Although she did not convince me that much in her rendition of "Still Hurting," she still made me love her in Cathy's "See I'm Smiling," "I'm A Part of That," and "I Can Do Better Than That."
Joaquin, on the other hand, did a great job at expressing how Jamie genuinely felt from his first scene until his very last. He made me feel involved in show's narrative.
By the way, I had the rare opportunity to personally meet the actors backstage after the performance. While chatting with the actors, Joaquin's words struck me the most, "Once you were bit by the theater bug, you can never escape it. You will always be asking for more." (and I second that!)
Jason Robert Brown's THE LAST 5 YEARS is an unpretentious look at love, marriage, and separation. It is definitely a must-see theatrical production.
THE LAST 5 YEARS, directed by Robbie Guevara, is 9 Works Theatrical's fifth anniversary offering, which runs at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati City until Sunday, August 31.
Besides Infante and Guevara, 9 Works Theatrical has also gathered video and projection designer GA Fallarme, musical director Joseph Tolentino, lighting designer Martin Esteva, sound designer Chuck Ledesma, hair and makeup designer Myrene Santos, technical director Gerhard Daco, and musical director (vocals) Lionel Guico to tell the ill-fated romance between Cathy and Jamie.
For tickets, visit ticketworld.com.ph.