The Last Five Years
Jason Robert Brown
Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment
Jason Robert Brown has written the book, the lyrics and the music. The show lasts 1 hour 30 minutes and is played without interval.
The Last Five Years, a two-hander, a dramatic song cycle, rather than a musical, premièred Off-Broadway in 2002 and since then has acquired a cult following. Until now, I had seen only Richard Lagravenese’s film version with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan and that was back in 2015.
The present stage production by Jonathan O’Boyle was seen originally at Southwark Playhouse, where it closed early because of lockdown.
Brown explores the intimate and intense relationship—love affair, marriage and break-up—of a 23-year-old aspiring author (Oli Higginson) and an aspiring actress (Molly Lynch) who are having difficulty trying to balance love and career and success and failure.
Their two stories criss-cross and go in different directions. The failed actress’s story goes backward in the manner of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. The successful author’s story goes forward. The more successful he becomes, the more she feels left out.
Brown’s bitter-sweet score is always pleasant to listen to. Molly Lynch sets the mood, singing "Still Burning". Oli Higginson has the more charismatic role and gives a charismatic out-front performance, instantly engaging with the audience when he sings "Shiksa Goddess" and "Moving Too Fast".
The Last Five Years is at the Garrick Theatre for a strictly limited 4-week season and ends on 17 October.
Reviewer: Robert Tanitch