Author and Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown studied the ups and downs of love through music by following a couple in their tender dance of love as it waxes and wanes, an effort which resulted in THE LAST FIVE YEARS. The show is funny, poignant, sad, and every other emotion which permeates the attraction that draws two people together…and sometimes drives them apart. In a highly creative twist to the boy-meets-girl theme, Brown reverses what we all expect. While “he” falls hard – until he doesn’t – and while “she” moves from loss to the warm, gentle breezes surrounding the first date, the audience gets to share in a fragile bonding – which may be doomed. THE LAST FIVE YEARS had its debut at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre before arriving off-Broadway in 2001, where the production earned the Drama Desk Award for music and lyrics. It was even adapted into a 2014 film. And now the International City Theatre brings audiences THE LAST FIVE YEARS, its first virtual musical.
An up-and-coming novelist, Jamie (John Battagliese) falls hard for Cathy (Gabriela Carrillo), a struggling actress. As they both strive for “happily-ever-after,” life gets in the way. The demands of two careers leave very few moments of together time for the lovers struggling to reach their goals. While Jamie signs copies of “Beneath the Surface,” his first novel, Cathy titillates the audience in the role of a sexy stripper.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS is told almost completely through song with a clever time line in which each experiences the vicissitudes of love from a different end point. Cathy begins by saying goodbye to the disintegrating marriage and slowly moves on to the early heartwarming events that all lovers feel, while Jamie is dazzled by Cathy at first – but eventually says adieu to their unfulfilling marriage.
Director Jamie Torcellini skillfully pulls together this romantic tale with the help of talented Battagliese and Carrillo, each singing their hearts out with joy or misery (and all those points in between) as they travel to the beginning – or the end – of their affair. And let’s not forget the able musicians who provide the melody for these songbirds. Graham Sobelman (musical director and piano), Natalie Hagwood (cello), and Hannah Jane Kile (guitar) keep the tunes flowing.
Of particular note were costumes by Kim DeShazo, sound by Dave Mickey, and video editing by Jessie Vacchiano. From New York City’s brownstones to the subways that traverse the epicenter of art, the production brings vitality and freshness to the screen. The streamed production purrs along smoothly to create an intimate mosaic of lovely dreams and harsh reality. Bringing the streamed musical right into your living room creates that extra dose of intimacy – just right for a tale of love.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a presentation of the International City Theatre and streams on demand from June 3 through June 20, 2021, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tickets are $35 per household. For information and reservations, go online.