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BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

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The hauntingly beautiful production is streaming until July 9th.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater THE LAST FIVE YEARS is the latest offering by JAKARTA PERFORMING ARTS COMMUNITY (in collaboration with SHOEMAKER STUDIO), following 2019's COMPANY: A MUSICAL COMEDY and a gap year mandated by the global coronavirus pandemic. The show is streaming on Kiostix starting at June 25 until July 9, 2021.The original Jason Robert Brown's 2012 Off-Broadway hit earned six Drama Desk awards and won for Outstanding Music and Lyrics.

The musical tells the story of a five-year relationship between Cathy Hiatt (Andrea Miranda), an aspiring actress, and Jamie Wellerstein (Taufan Purbo), a superstar novelist. The show's unique structure consists of Cathy telling her experiences in reverse chronological order, starting from the bitter end of their marriage; while Jamie tells his side of the story from the beginning, right after their first date. Both Jamie and Cathy never truly interact with each other until the middle of the musical, which also marks the halfway point of their relationship: their wedding day.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

The one helming the creative vision is JPAC's long-time director Fonnyta Amran (COMPANY: A MUSICAL COMEDY, WEST SIDE STORY, BLACKBIRD), this time billed specifically as stage director. In order to translate her vision to film, she collaborated with filmmaker Adriano Rudiman (GOODNIGHT, STARGAZER) as the film director. Meanwhile, Wishnu Dewanta (MUSIKAL BELAKANG PANGGUNG) is the one interpreting Jason Robert Brown's original score as the music director.

Going from WEST SIDE STORY's colorful crowd of dancing gang members to only more than a dozen of New York socialites in COMPANY and now to a two-person musical play truly put Fonnyta Amran's directorial acumen under the spotlight. And it is a great joy seeing just how much her vision and mastery of the theatrical language have matured.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

THE LAST FIVE YEARS feels like a natural evolution of her cerebral approach to COMPANY, which put Bobby's inner turmoil onto the stage through the clever interplay of every stage element. Fonnyta's unerring compulsion to orchestrate every detail of a play (with due credit to her collaborators, of course) is greatly facilitated by this title in particular, which is inherently minimalistic. With only two main actors, about a dozen set pieces, and a beautifully set up black box theater (provided by SHOEMAKER), her approach to directing is more palpable than ever.

Long story short, JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is nuanced yet expressive. The nuance comes from the mostly naturalistic approach to acting, as each character comes across as very comfortable in their skin, with their thoughts and moods clearly communicated, yet still with a touch of theatricality as one would expect from a musical.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

Fonnyta's penchant for symbolism also comes to play; after she arranged panels of stained glass windows to represent Bobby's mental compartmentalization in COMPANY, Fonnyta once again collaborated with scenic designer Cahaya Lituhayu and props master Reigina Tjahaja to construct a similarly evocative physical set, this time most apparent in the form of rows of lights that can glow warmly, blink harshly, or dim to darkness, according to any particular scene's emotion.

This artistic approach feels like a perfect fit for THE LAST FIVE YEARS, which is already experimental and thought-provoking as is. It makes for a production with a very strong sense of identity, as every little detail seems like perfectly made for each other (much unlike our main couple). And, personally, it's hard imagining a better approach for Jason Robert Brown's script.

However, it should be noted that the script itself is very liberal with local (that is, American, Jewish, and New York) references and minutiae. The average Indonesian viewer might have problem understanding the implications of certain lines, especially with no subtitles available. A glossary in the program book would also have been useful.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

This production also marks the first time that a JPAC production comes to the screen instead of purely on stage. Adriano Rudiman and the filming team managed to successfully elevate the beautiful happenings on the stage to a cinematic work of art, while maintaining the spirit of theatre.

After the pandemic, many theatre groups turn to filmed and streamed shows. Yet many, if not most of these, feel like an uneasy compromise; the cameras are merely there to capture the performance, not to waltz nor tango with the play. This is not the case for THE LAST FIVE YEARS, as the shots and filming techniques used are beautifully in tune with the stage.

The production is not ashamed to acknowledge that it's, first and foremost, a stage production. We can see the curtains, the reflective surface of the stage floor, the set pieces, even the musicians at certain points. But with the added dimension of cinema, the audience can see every detail that would've been missed, every heartbreaking expression, every gesture of the hand and body.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

The decision to mostly use handheld cameras is an interesting one, but feels quite fitting in hindsight. It evokes the feeling of existing in the same physical space with the cast, making each emotional moment feel more personal. However, a minor drawback from this approach is that some moments, especially with big and sudden movements, are not fully captured in frame.

Moreover, the filming team captured some truly beautiful and evocative shots. A scene that stood out to me particularly was If I Didn't Believe in You, in which a distraught Jamie tried to convince Cathy that he's trying to make their relationship work (rather hypocritically, but that's beside the point). Jamies is sitting clad in darkness while Cathy is bathed in blinding white light, making for a truly haunting moment.

And it would be remiss to review a musical without mentioning its music. First of all, Jason Robert Brown's songwriting chops are already well-known among Broadway goers, drawing favorable comparisons to Sondheim. And THE LAST FIVE YEARS proves that the praises are well-earned.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

The songs are delectably complex, containing more emotions in one song than some musicals have in their whole runtime. The lyrics are similarly well-constructed, with some clever rhymes and hidden subtexts under the surface. The melody runs from ditty and bouncy tunes to heartbreaking ballads.

Fortunately, Wishnu Dewanta's musical direction does the score justice. The music is very rich and lively, seemingly jumping out of the screen, with beautiful instrumentation and some outstanding moments where the music highlights the character's joy or grief really well. And the near-perfect sound quality allows us to enjoy both the music and the vocals fully, except for a brief balancing issue in Jamie's first song.

Of course, the said vocals are courtesy of the two main actors: Andrea Miranda and Taufan Purbo. Both of them are seasoned musical actors with years of experience performing in Jakarta's many stages. Andrea and Taufan have also performed opposite each other previously, an experience they have both found helpful in preparing for their respective roles in THE LAST FIVE YEARS.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

Andrea Miranda is a singer and musical actor of great renown, recently appearing in TEMAN's productions of INTO THE WOODS (2018) as Cinderella and HAIRSPRAY (2019) as Amber von Tussel. And while she gave solid and satisfying performances in those supporting roles, it is very exciting to see her in a starring role, especially one in which she can fully showcase both her tremendous acting and singing expertise.

Andrea's Cathy is full of vigor, an explosive bundle of very human emotions packed in her somewhat diminutive figure. There was not a moment in the musical where she was not an absolute joy to watch; from the slightest smile or the faintest frown, to big swings and kicks of joy, all ever so masterfully hinting at Cathy's true feelings. Her acting choices are exhilarating to witness.

And her voice is impeccable, hitting all the right notes while carrying the emotional burden of a wronged spouse and a dejected artist, with crystal clear articulation. She can sing sweet as honey in the happier songs like Goodbye Until Tomorrow and I Can Do Better Than That or terrifyingly bitter in...well, most of her other songs. She's also unafraid of giving the material her own spin, putting in stresses to choice words, playing with accents and intonation, those little touches that make her performance special.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

Playing opposite her is Taufan Purbo, who's also well-acclaimed singer and actor of the same caliber, with roles in productions like LENTERA DI TEPIAN and the SANGKURIANG episode of #MusikalDiRumahAja. Not only does he have the charisma and good looks of a lead actor, but a stellar voice as well.

Jamie can easily be interpreted as a heartless jerk (and quite rightfully so), but Taufan and Ipong did not take the easy way; here, Jamie is presented as a man who's torn between his ambitions, his love for Cathy, and his own moral failings. It didn't absolve him, but it explained him as a deeply flawed man.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

Taufan's Jamie is a powerhouse. His energy and wholehearted, if oblivious, optimism is on full display in songs like Moving Too Fast and The Schmuel Song, with an infectious smile that can make us believe that, maybe, he can make it work with Cathy, that everything will be alright.

Of course, that all came crashing down when Jamie gave in to temptation and cheated on and gaslighted Cathy. But, even in those dark moments, Taufan's pained expressions and mournful vocals implied the burden of guilt and made him a more complicated and whole character.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

These micro-expressions of Taufan's Jamie are fascinating to watch, capable of communicating a lot. However, the bigger theatrical movements can be rough around the edges at times, making those feel the slightest bit scripted.

Still, that's a minor enough issue and altogether, watching Taufan and Dea on stage can make one forget that one is watching a musical, simply from how believable and raw their emotional journey was. It also helps that the two leads had great chemistry, with genuine loving looks and physical warmth during Jamie and Cathy's happier days.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

Overall, JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a masterfully created piece of art that is pushing the limits of what a community production could be. The marriage of theatrical and cinematic artistry created a powerful tale about human connection, regret, and hope. And even though Cathy and Jamie's story can definitely break our hearts in its humble 90 minutes run time, it might just make us reflect on our own choices in life - and, with any luck, it might just save us from a heartbreak of our own.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS is streaming until July 9th on Kiostix platform. Check out JPAC's Instagram or website for more information.

BWW Review: JPAC and SHOEMAKER's THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a Heartbreakingly Beautiful Marriage of Film and Theater

Edit: The previous version of this article mentioned that the show is streaming until July 27th. The correct date is July 9th.

Disclaimer: This review was written by Broadwayworld Indonesia's regional contributor, Rakaputra Paputungan, who was involved in the production as a co-producer.


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