Wednesday, 6 September 2006

The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown, Sept 6, 2006

The Last Five Years  
by Jason Robert Brown
Melbourne Music Theatre
 Chapel off Chapel, September 6 to 17, 2006
 8pm Wed to Sat, 5pm Sun
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 6

Jason Robert Brown’s two-person musical, The Last Five Years, is a poignant experience for anyone who has been touched by the sad ending of a loving marriage. It really brings a tear to the eye.

Jamie Wellerstein, played with passion by Matt Hetherington, is a 23-year old novelist who aspires to greatness and picks up a young lovely wife, an agent, a publisher and a writer’s award all in the matter of five years. He is vibrant, ambitious, egocentric and relentlessly positive – right up until the death knell of his marriage can be heard.

Laura Fitzpatrick is sweet-voiced and charming as the under-confident and under-achieving Cathy. In the first of their five years together, she is filled with hope for her future as an actor and her relationship with Jamie. Slowly, her sense of failure rises and her competition for Jamie’s attention shatters her.

Is it any wonder Brown’s ex-wife threatened to sue him for revealing their troubled marriage?

Director, Peter Fitzpatrick, keeps the scenes moving, concentrating on the emotional layering and the counterpoint of their two experiences. The live band, under Vicki Jacobs, is raunchy and skilful.

Apart from having a marvellous score and singable tunes, the show has a strikingly original structure. While Jamie’s story goes forward in time from their first meeting, Cathy travels in reverse from the lonely, painful ending back to their bright-eyed beginning.  

This shape generates fascinating collisions. While Jamie naively sings he will defy his Jewish mother by loving a “Shiksa Goddess”, Cathy sits alone in their apartment singing I’m Still Hurting. When Jamie reaches the end of their rocky ride, packs his bags and sings I Could Never Rescue You, Cathy, with girlish romantic hope, waves goodbye for the first time to the young man she loves. It is heart wrenching.

The only moment when they communicate directly is at their joyful marriage, sweetly singing the duet, The Next Ten Minutes about spending a lifetime together.

Hetherington’s voice is versatile and rousing; he can belt a funky number such as Moving Too Fast or croon the sad ballad If I Didn’t Believe in You. He is engaging and he gives us insight into the life of the successful young writer.

Laura Fitzpatrick’s bright and warm voice brings naivete and delicacy to Cathy, fitting for this child-woman who cannot understand the demise of her marriage.

By Kate Herbert

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