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BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Broadway Rose

THE LAST FIVE years is available for streaming through May 16.

BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Broadway Rose

Oh, to be young and in love! Or, maybe not. As I watched Broadway Rose's streaming production of THE LAST FIVE YEARS, starring Kailey Rhodes and Jeff Rosick, I was aware of how much my impression of this musical has changed since I first encountered it.

The show is about the relationship between Cathy and Jamie, two twentysomething artists who, over the course of five years, meet, get married, and separate. When I first heard the soundtrack, I was also a twentysomething and was easily moved to tears by the dissolution of what seemed like a beautiful relationship. Now, as a wizened fortysomething, I can see that Cathy and Jamie never had a chance. In this production directed by Sharon Maroney, I sense that Cathy and Jamie know it too.

What makes THE LAST FIVE YEARS unique is its construction. Cathy moves backward in time, from the end of the relationship to the first date, while Jamie starts at the first date and moves forward. Their timelines meet only once, on their wedding day (though Maroney has made the controversial decision to have the characters occasionally appear in each other's scenes, albeit in shadow). They take turns singing about significant moments in their lives and relationship, often giving us the chance to see the events from each characters' perspective.

The musical was inspired by writer, composer, and lyricist Jason Robert Brown's failed first marriage, and even writing about himself, Brown struggled to make Jamie a sympathetic character. Having found success with his writing way too young, when Jamie looks around he sees nothing but himself. His first song, "Shiksa Goddess," is superficially about why he has fallen in love with Cathy, but in reality it's not about her at all. Later, when Cathy needs encouragement about both their relationship and their acting career, the best Jamie can come up with is that he believes in her -- a nice sentiment except that it once again positions Cathy as having worth only as it relates to him.

For her part, Cathy has to figure out what she wants and what she can live with. At times, she seems resigned to a life of riding in Jamie's sidecar, whereas at others, she's an ambitious budding actor, ready to take NYC by storm (at home, I didn't have to worry about my fellow audience members being disturbed by my frequent pleas for her to leave the bum!).

Rhodes has the depth and dexterity to communicate multiple conflicting emotions at the same time, and I often felt like I was witnessing a private moment of peak identity crisis. On the charming narcissist front, Rosick has the narcissism down pat though is perhaps a bit short on the charm. Both are able to handle Brown's challenging music skillfully, bringing out the quirkiness as well as the spectrum of emotions from joy to pain to deep ambivalence.

The extra challenges of producing musicals right now have resulted in not many theatres even trying. While they're certainly no substitute for live performance, Broadway Rose's productions have consistently been among the best virtual theatre options available. If you haven't yet checked one out, don't miss your opportunity.

THE LAST FIVE years is available for rent through May 16. More details and tickets here: https://www.broadwayrose.org/last-five-years/

Photo credit: Mark Daniels


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