BWW Reviews: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Spotlighters is a Delight

It was eleven years ago I was fortunate to see the original Off-Broadway production of THE LAST FIVE YEARS which starred Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott. I was enamored by it so much I suggested to Everyman Theatre's Artistic Director Vince Lancisi to do it (after all it has a cast of two) and that production was terrific.

Last year, I saw it again at the Heritage Players in Catonsville (see my review elsewhere on this site). I'll be seeing LFY in New York directed by Brown next week.

For those uninitiated with Jason Robert Brown, he won a Tony Award for his score for PARADE in 1999.

Prior to that, he was known for his incredible SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD.

To say I'm a huge fan of his is an understatement. His music is elegant, poignant, and powerful, and full of delicious melodies that I just can't get out of my head.

I have to applaud the historic Spotlighters Theatre's Artistic Director Fuzz Roark (celebrating 50 years) for bringing THE LAST FIVE YEARS back to the Baltimore/Washington area. A few years ago I saw their unusual and entertaining production oF Brown's SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD.

Roark puts on his Director's hat for THE LAST FIVE YEARS and adds his take to this wonderful musical which deals with a relationship and a marriage between Cathy and Jaime. It's told from two angles.

Cathy begins the evening singing about the end of her marriage in the haunting "I'm Still Hurting". Then Jaime sings about meeting a "Shiksa Goddess" (Yiddish for non-Jewish woman). They meet at the middle of the 82 minute intermission-less play with the gorgeous duet "The Next Ten Minutes" when they marry.

The cast is composed of four actors. What Roark does differently is use the two non- performing actors as extras at Cathy and Jaime's wedding or attending a book-signing for Jaime's new book. I've never seen this done before but it works.

The two actors playing Cathy are Norma Gomez and Lauren Schein. The two actors playing Jaime are Zachery Carter and Bart Debicki. They will be interchanged during the run of the musical. The preview performance I attended featured Schein and Carter and they did a terrific job and I'm sure they'll even improve their performances with time.

The surprise for me was the orchestra. I was expecting just a keyboard but was so pleased to hear the wonderful strings of Ryan Lucas on guitar, Jacques-Pierre Malan on cello, Kristin Bakkegard on violin, and Russell Snyder on fretless bass guitar. Assistant Musical Director Bobby McCoy (subbing for Musical Director Kevin Roland) had the incredible daunting task of playing composer Brown's orchestrations and intricate keyboard parts. And he did it with gusto. I was fortunate to be seated nearby McCoy and I enjoyed watching his hands move over the keyboard. They are all terrific.

Pete Vargo uses his clever lighting design to assist the actors during the evening and Laura Nicholson does the effective costumes.

Brown not only wrote the incredible music and the clever lyrics, he completed the trifecta by writing the book. I highly recommend one purchase the CD before the show since it includes the libretto.

When the show is over, playing over the sound system is Jason Robert Brown's wonderful solo CD "Wearing Someone Else's Clothes". Very clever.

Thursday night, March 7 all tickets are $10. The musical continues until March 23. For tickets, call 410-752-1225 or visit www.spotlighters.org. The theater is located at 817 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21202.

Next up at the Spotlighters is the terrific EQUUS by Peter Shaffer playing April 5 to May 5.

The Spotlighters also offers a Young Actors Academy Spring Semester. For Lower School students, it runs March 12 to May 7.

For Middle School students, it runs March 14 t May 9.

Visit www.spotlighters.org and click on Education or call 410-752-1225. Tuition for the eight week program is $150 for 8 weeks.

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD in NYC for One Night - March 11, 2013

On March 11, 2013, for one night only, Jason Robert Brown's SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD will be presented at the XL Cabaret, 512 W. 42nd Street. It stars Jessica Rush, Michael James Scott, Nick Adams (who just performed in the concert version of HAIRSPRAY with the Baltimore Symphony), and Ashley Brown (who also just performed with the BSO last week). Musical Director is James Sampliner (who I recall was Musical Director with NEXT TO NORMAL at the Arena Stage) and the Director is Jeff Calhoun. Visit www.SongtheMusical.com.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Second Stage in NYC to April 28, 2013

Jason Robert Brown is directing THE LAST FIVE YEARS at New York's Second Stage, 3-5 W. 43rd St., New York, NY. 10036 through April 28, 2013. Call 212-246-4422.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS at Signature Theatre in Shirlington, VA April 2-28, 2013

Yet another version is being done at the Signature Theatre from April 2 to April 28, 2013. Visit www.signature-theatre.org or call 703-573-SEAT.

THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY has World Premiere at Williamstown

The World Premiere of Jason Robert's Brown's newest musical, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY will be presented at the Williamstown Theatre Festival August 1-18. It has a book by Marsha Norman and will be directed by Bartlett Sher. Tickets go on sale in April. Visit www.wtfestival.org or call 413-597-3400.

cgshubow@broadwayworld.com


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From This Author Charles Shubow