BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS, an Orpheus Musical Theatre Production - Ottawa, Ontario
As its name implies, The Last Five Years takes place over a five-year period. The cast is comprised of only two individuals, Cathy (Michelle Gendron) and Jamie (Louie Rossetti). Cathy and Jaime are a couple and the story takes us through their five-year relationship, from its inception to its bitter end. What makes this musical unusual is that the story is told from both perspectives, with Jaime narrating in chronological order and with Cathy starting at the end, working her way back to the beginning of the relationship. Although Cathy and Jaime share the stage throughout the show, they only really interact once, in the middle at their wedding. The story is almost entirely sung, with a four-piece orchestra providing the score.
The Meridian Studio Theatre at Centrepointe is an ideal location for this type of production. The intimacy of the theatre lends itself perfectly to the feeling of voyeurism when watching the show.
The Last Five Years was written by Jason Robert Brown and opened in Chicago at the Northlight Theatre in 2001. It was subsequently produced off-Broadway and has since been performed on numerous tours, both nationally and internationally.
The story feels, at times, tedious. The audience already knows how it will end and it is difficult to feel much sympathy for either character, as they are both self-obsessed and unwilling to compromise.
Gendron and Rossetti make the most of the musical numbers, which feel repetitive. Rossetti gets the best songs, the highlight being, "The Schmuel Song". Gendron's shining moments are in her recurring auditions, where she is able to showcase her vocal and dancing talent, particularly in the "Summer in Ohio". Gendron and Rossetti feel off during the few times they sing together, although this may be done deliberately to reinforce the fact that they are never emotionally on the same page.
The excellent staging adds symbolism to the display: the background consists of a closet of sorts, with cut outs housing various items used in the show. Cathy's side of the closet is full at the beginning of the show (or the end of the relationship), with Jaime's side sitting empty. As the show progresses, the items are used and moved to Jaime's side of the closet so that, at the finale, Jaime's side is full and Cathy's is bare.
Ultimately, it is difficult to feel anything for either of the characters despite Gendron and Rossetti's best efforts. Jaime is a narcissist and Cathy acts like a whiny housewife; hopefully their next relationships will work out better for them.