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BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Oyster Mill Playhouse

Two casts take on The Last Five Years at Oyster Mill Playhouse

BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Oyster Mill Playhouse

Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years is the perfect show for community theatres that are slowly reopening or those doing virtual productions. With a cast of just two, who are seldom on stage together, it is easy to perform this show in a safe manner. The musical tells the story of Jamie Wellerstein and Cathy Hiatt and their relationship. Cathy recounts their relationship from the end to the beginning, while Jamie's rendition starts at the beginning and proceeds to the end of the relationship. Their stories meet in the middle with their proposal and marriage. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, and relatable story with complicated characters. Most of the story is told through song, and the music (which is not easy) spans several different genres, including pop, jazz, rock, and folk. Oyster Mill Playhouse is presenting The Last Five Years with two different casts both virtually and in person June 4-June 12.

Their production features Carly Lafferty and TJ Creedon as one cast and Lindsay Bretz-Morgan and Sean Meara in the other cast. All of the performers meet the challenges of this musical beautifully. It is a wonderfully unique experience to be able to watch both casts, as each actor brings a different interpretation to the characters. Even though both casts were directed by Ryan Dean Schoening, the show takes on a different feel in the hands of each cast, and both are equally enjoyable to watch and listen to while taking the audience on an intense emotional journey. My only issue was that the lighting was a little dark on the virtual production in some of the scenes, but that was likely due to technology, and certainly did not diminish the quality or experience of the performance itself.

The opening song is one of the most recognizable for those who have seen the production before. "Still Hurting" is a song that encompasses the feelings of loss, loneliness, sadness, despair, and even anger that often accompany the end of a relationship. Bretz-Morgan and Lafferty both knock this song out of the park. Bretz-Morgan's Cathy delivers a touching performance filled with raw emotion. Lafferty's Cathy approaches the song with a more plaintive and profound sense of sadness and desolation. Both are simply beautiful. Lafferty particularly shines in her heartfelt performance of "I'm a Part of That". Bretz-Morgan convincingly displays her character's strength at the end of "See I'm Smiling". These actors each bring Cathy to life in authentic and relatable ways.

One of the major challenges for this show, particularly for the role of Jamie, is making sure that the lyrics are clear-there are a number of fast-paced songs with a lot of words. With both of these casts, there are no diction issues (I even found myself thinking, "hey, I finally know what those words are now" in a couple of spots). Jamie's first two songs-"Shiksa Goddess" and "Moving Too Fast"-are great examples of this. Creedon and Meara both have the vocal chops to handle these challenging pieces while still telling the audience the story. These songs also highlight the difference in Creedon and Meara's approach to Jamie. At the beginning of the show Creedon's Jamie comes across as more carefree with a youthful energy, while Meara's Jamie is more reserved in the beginning and then gains confidence as the character's success grows. Both actors are delightful storytellers, as evidenced in their performances of "The Schmuel Song". Meara's performance of "If I Didn't Believe in You" will make the audience's hearts melt, as will Creedon's rendition of "I Could Never Rescue You".

While the characters are not on stage at the same time very often, two of the songs they sing together-"The Next Ten Minutes" and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You"-really highlight their vocal talent with beautiful harmonies. A special round of applause goes to the production team at Oyster Mill for the montage of snippets from Jamie and Cathy's relationship during the final song.

To catch The Last Five Years, Oyster Mill's first show in over a year, visit www.oystermill.com.


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From This Author Andrea Stephenson