BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Taganka Theatre
18 years ago a love story by Jason Robert Brown premiered in Chicago. Today, it is translated into several languages and was shown in Stockholm, Basel, Belfast, Paris, London, etc. Now, it's coming to Moscow.
A musical directed by Alexey Frandetti tells a story about the relationship between Jamie and Cathy within five years. It's simple as that: a Jewish aspiring writer meets an aspiring actress, they fall in love, get married, Jamie becomes a successful novelist, Cathy is struggling with her career, Jamie cheats on her and they split up. To me, this is hardly interesting but the format of leading the show simultaneously backwards and forwards (when Cathy is at the end of their relationship and Jamie is at the beginning) is rather fascinating.
However, while it can be amusing, it gets boring by the middle of the show ("The Next Ten Minutes" - a proposal/wedding scene) because decorations are unable to compensate for the insufficient story. "The Next Ten Minutes" musical number lacks on-stage action (the wedding happens on the screen) and lasts for more than 7 minutes which makes it almost unbearable to watch.
The show is visually appealing: big windows with views of New York; colourful set and props, beautiful actors, but it cannot offset such ordinary story which definitely needs some more metaphors (apart from time in terms of structure and symbols) and unique approaches.
Speaking of actors, the small-scale musical demands only two of them, hence everyone has to be perfect. Cathy is played by Marfa Coltsova, who possesses wonderful comedic talent. A role of Jamie is performed by Pavel Levkin who, as it seems, now switched from parts of various princes and silly lovers (he was the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast", Prince in "Cinderella", Antony in "Sweeney Todd") to playing New Yorkers in love stories: Sam in "Ghost", Jamie here and Aaron in the upcoming production of "First Date". Marfa and Pavel form a good cast, being able to make the audience laugh and empathize, but they still need a bit more time to work some things out.
Jokes were not lost in translation, though they sometimes seemed childish and awkward (maybe it's just me). The music is nice but kind of repetitive and too uniform. I like that it's set on the Small stage of the theatre: sometimes the show is performed on larger scenes and the amount of space could be unnecessary (but also could be a metaphor for how characters are away from each other). I can assess a musical by my wish to rewatch it. To see "The Last Five Years" again - I think I'll pass.
Photo Credit: Yury Bogomaz