BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS at North Shore Music Theatre
Reviewed by Pauline Vella
North Shore Music Theatre's 'The Last 5 Years' is a heartbreaking, emotional roller coaster from the first glorious note to the last. It's compelling and you simply do not want to miss this!
Writer and Composer Jason Robert Brown used his own failed marriage as the motivator in the creation of the piece, resulting in a spellbinding relatable story which microscopes relationship stages, dynamics, and mutual destruction.
'The Last 5 Years' debuted on Off Broadway 2002. The North Shore Music Theatre Clubrooms, having in recent years become a perfect bijou second stage for small-cast shows, serves this production well being suitably intimate to the audience to become immersed in this story.
It is immediately clear that characters Cathy and Jamie played by Kate Riegel and Kit Haines respectively are telling their story in isolation from each other with Cathy's first number taking place at the end of the marriage and Jamie's at the start, amidst the very first flush of love. They meet onstage for one brief moment, in the middle of each other's timeline, in harmony at their wedding. Clever.
Cathy is first up, and Kate Riegel walks onstage full of grief, despair, confusion and grabs your heart and tears it to shreds. Her performance of the opening song 'Still Hurting' is masterful. Travelling back to the beginning Riegel unravels a character full of rich contradiction, warmth, charm and massive insecurities. Riegel shines throughout the production moving through all the stages of Cathy's journey with sensitivity and great emotional range.
The second song introduces Jamie - the cad who has decided it is time to move on 'certain that we had no chance at all.' Yet here he is at the beginning of the relationship being funny, boyish, tender and loveable. Arguably Haines has the harder task in that spot to the win sympathy and support for Jamie from the audience after such an emotional opening challenge from Riegel.
The plot moves along to Jamie becoming a success in his career, with his first book being published while Cathy's acting career goes from one unsuccessful audition to the next and cracks appear in the relationship.
Haines' portrayal of Jamie's success is well measured; he celebrates his success; a success that is frustrating Cathy as her career prospects are in decline. It is there he then he sings one of the show's most charming numbers 'The Schmuel Song', a funny little ironic number about work ethic, delivered lovingly to encourage Cathy to not give up on her career dreams. This is one of Haine's finest moments amongst the finest moments.
After meeting in the same space and time of the wedding, the elastic wedding band stretches even further and, against all unreasonable audience hope, we know it is over.
Such is the talent of the onstage pair and the patient, understated, almost balletic directorial perfection we mourn for both at the end.
Congratulations to Director Emma Carr for crafting such simplistic perfection. Carr has been able to craftily illuminate the humour which is always embedded within human tragedy.
The set is minimal being made up of 2 chairs, a hanging display hook and a shared memory box which I found particularly poignant.
From the first orchestral note to the last, this show is musically triumphant. Sympathetic and emotional accompaniment under the direction of Zac Johns.
The costuming captures the mood of each character as they progress through this story supporting the mood and emotion very well.
The Last Five Years
North Shore Music Theatre
NSMT - Clubroom Theatre
5 Recreation Drive, Birkenhead
8th - 23rd March
Bookings : https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2019/mar/last-five-years