The Last Five Years

Image © Mike Kwasniak

The Last Five Years

Written & Composed by Jason Robert Brown

New Wolsey Theatre

Thu 25th Feb to Fri 11th March 2016

The Last Five Years is a story that seemed to have great success in it’s off-broadway run, and is a musical that seems to have a small cult-following in the theatre community. It was also made into a film in 2014 (Starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan), which didn’t do well at the Cinema box office and received generally mixed reviews, therefore I was intrigued to watch the film prior to seeing the show. However, while it was nice to have the reference and understanding from seeing the film, this was not necessary, as I much preferred the way the story came across on stage as it captured the emotions and story so much better.

While the basis of story was rather simple, a tale of two creative young lovers that spent five years together, the concept made it far more interesting. The couples stories ran in opposite orders; Cathy’s (played by Katie Birtill) story began at the break-up and worked backwards, while Jamie’s (played by Chris Cowley) story ran in chronological order and their only cross-over was the wedding. Their tale is told through song, but their vocals and tones kept you gripped and focused through-out.

Held together by a cast of two, I don’t know how you couldn’t be impressed. With both of their impressive vocal ranges guiding you through the story, and a shared amount of time on stage, it’s a show that requires plenty of energy from the pair of actors, as well as the musicians who didn’t stop playing for the entire performance and carried out an equally amazing performance. I can really see the cast being rising stars, especially as Chris has already had a stint as a cover Fiyero in Wicked on London’s West End and Katie has been involved in a few UK tours of show and succeeded as Charity in Sweet Charity also at The New Wolsey last year.

The costumes also gave a great guidance to the story, as they really showcased the development and growth of the characters in the simplest and most minor way.
The set-design remained simple through-out, but it matched the theme perfectly and for local theatre and a simple story, some parts were rather impressive and comical.
Overall I would say if you’re looking for a romance drama story, that’s a little bit different, this one is for you. I personally thought it worked a treat, with the audiences seeming to be captured in all the right emotions at the right times and the story coming across and flowing perfectly by a talented ensemble of cast and creatives.

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