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BWW Review: Lawton Community Theatre Touches Hearts with THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Lawton Community Theatre produces a moving online version of the marriage heartbreak tale THE LAST FIVE YEARS

BWW Review: Lawton Community Theatre Touches Hearts with THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Jason Robert Brown's musical THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a poignant, touching story. At its center is a married couple, moving through five years of their failing marriage. The story is told in individual scenes, with the two actors portraying the married couple performing alone. Cathy, the wife, tells her story from the end, moving backward to the beginning of their relationship. Jamie, the husband, tells his story from the beginning, moving chronologically toward the present. Lawton Community Theatre presents this heartbreaking show via online streaming. It's pre-filmed on stage with no audience, and the camera work is mostly close-ups. It feels very much like being in the theatre, just with a really good seat.

Jason Robert Brown is a triple-threat; playwright, composer, lyricist, and his shows are unforgiving to say the least. His music requires a strong vocal range and this show, like most of his compositions, is almost entirely sung through. It makes for a compelling musical, but patrons must work for it. Everyone has to concentrate because the story is embedded in the lyrics. Luckily the two vocalists portraying Cathy and Jamie are wonderful singers and excellent storytellers.

Mikki Hankins is absolutely beautiful as Cathy. When the show begins, she's resigned and heartbroken. Without even knowing the context of why, she makes her audience feel her pain. As the story unfolds, in reverse, the explanation as to how their relationship wanes becomes clear. Cathy is an actress, struggling to make her career and her life work with Jamie. Hankins holds the task of creating a full life in just a few musical numbers. She accomplishes this by performing with all her heart in every scene. There is no doubt that everyone watching this at home is rooting for her all the way. Hankins is vocally gifted and sparkles on stage, and she creates a character who is full of life and love.

Bryson Petersen is Jamie, and he oozes charm and magnetism. Jamie is a successful novelist, and his arrogance grows as his timeline proceeds. Petersen is the would-be villain, making some selfish choices and speaking openly about his not-so-nice innermost thoughts. But Petersen refines this character to more than just his bad decisions. Petersen makes Jamie into a nice guy, someone you'd actually like and want to talk to. Peterson is a strong and robust performer, pulling at heartstrings even when you hate him.

The two timelines meet for one scene in the middle of the show. It's during this musical number that the actors actually perform together, singing to each other during their wedding. They exchange rings, promises, vows, and a romantic kiss. Yes, a real kiss on stage! The chemistry between the two is electric and the kiss is a heart-stopping moment. Nobody touches in theatre anymore, and there is just simply too much socially distanced everything. While most productions can adapt, sometimes you just can't fake it. This moment is just magical.

This production is a fully-produced on stage show, with the added addition of sweeping camera moves and a few minor scene change edits. Lighting design by Alan Jolly is moody and romantic and invites the viewer into the story. Production Director/Camera Operator Chance Harmon has used the space and limitations beautifully, and the production succeeds in feeling more like an in-person play than a virtual stream.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS is beautiful in its truth. Neither person in this doomed couple is single-handedly to blame for why their marriage doesn't last. They're two flawed, broken, real people, and as their timelines show, they're going in opposite directions the entire time they are together. It's refreshing to see some realness on stage. When art reflects life, the sad and the honest, it reminds us that we aren't alone in this human experience after all.

Lawton Community Theatre's production of THE LAST FIVE YEARS is available for online streaming through May 19th. To purchase tickets, visit lawtoncommunitytheatre.com.


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