BREAKING-UP NEVER SOUNDED SO GOOD
REVIEW: THE LAST FIVE YEARS
BY RYAN LUÉVANO
Imagine witnessing the last five years of one of your failed relationships played out on stage for all to see—that’s what the Jason Robert Brown musical The Last Five Years accomplishes. The show written in 2001 is directly inspired by Brown’s failed marriage to Theresa O’Neill. Audiences follow this break-up musical in two opposing timelines, the story of Cathy is told in reverse chronological order and Jamie’s story is told in chronological order. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts takes this intimate musical with a two-person cast to the big stage in a way that’s exciting and profound.
Director Nick DeGruccio is up for the challenge of making this chamber musical feel at home on a large stage. Given that the characters only interact once in the middle and at the end, DeGruccio makes sure that the scenes are woven seamlessly into each other maintaining the momentum. Audiences can follow both stories with ease, never losing sight of the greater story at hand. The scenes are visually accomplished with lighting and simple props such as a cardboard box of clothes, a picnic basket, blankets, a dolly stacked with boxes—minimal, yet elegant.
The set designed by Stephen Gifford is also simple and effective. Gifford adds dimension to the stage with raised angled platforms and square tiles as a backdrop that is used for projections. Additionally, during the production there are the various photos of the couple that are projected for everyone to see—we experience these moments with the characters, we too are gazing inside a shoebox full of old pictures.
When the characters sing together for the first time in “The Next Ten Minutes” the set comes to life with vivid projections of blossoms floating about the stage. Everything about this production is meticulously created to take the audience into the lives of these characters—there’s nothing that that the audience cannot see.
With a musical made up of only solo numbers, the actors are always in the limelight and must carry the show as if it’s each their own to bear. These are not easy songs to sing, and the music exploits a myriad of styles including: pop, jazz, and classical, klezmer, latin, rock, and folk. What’s more, the songs offer more than cabaret-style moods, but are meant to tell a story, which both actors accomplish magnificently.
Natalie Storrs (Catherine) sublimely opens the show with Brown’s deeply moving song “Still Hurting”—her performance cuts deep into all the pain that the music represents. Later Storrs makes audiences laugh in her charming delivery of “A Summer In Ohio”. Storrs brings so much to Catherine’s character: her powerful voice floats through the ballads and bubbles in the up-tempo numbers.
Devin Archer (Jamie) offers a splendid compliment to Storrs performance and character. Archer’s performance is raw, wild and bursting with energy. In his first number “Skiksa Goddess” he brings the audience to cheers immediately following. Clearly Jason Robert Brown has given many of the best songs in the show to Jamie—Archer nails them all. In “Moving Too Fast” Archer gives everything he’s got to make this number sizzle and garners more ovations. And there’s no song more hilarious than his rendition of “The Schmuel Song”, where Archer brings good old-fashioned schtick to relay this funny story—once the music begins Archer holds the audience in his palm until the very end.
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR?
Music director, conductor, and pianist Brent Crayon expertly performs Brown’s challenging score and keeps all the musical elements running smoothly. The orchestra and vocals in this show are simply fantastic—the work of a first-rate music director.
In real life breaking up is far from pleasant, but in La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts’ production of The Last Five Years, a break up makes for a glorious evening of entertainment.
TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION:
OPENS: SATURDAY, JANUARY 21 through SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12
PERFORMANCES: Wednesdays and; Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8pm;
Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.
There will be ASL interpreted performances on Saturday, January 28 and;
Saturday, February 11 at 2pm and an Open Captioned performance
on Saturday, February 4 at 2pm.
LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada, CA 90638.
For tickets, please call (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or buy online at