Jason Robert Brown’s award-winning musical, The Last Five Years, is a journey that takes us through Cathy and Jamie’s five year relationship as seen and sung by them, writes Michael Holland.
The clever part about this is that Jamie’s version is told from the beginning, from that beautiful and blissful Honeymoon period where everything in the world is good and you have a permanent smile on your face, while Cathy’s starts at the bitter end where the love has turned sour.
Cathy is ‘Still Hurting’ in the opening number until Jamie follows up with a song about finding his ‘Goddess’. And so it goes on until they meet in the middle, being showered with confetti at their wedding.
But at that crossing point it is Cathy heading towards the euphoria of those early days as Jamie’s life and relationship worsen as his writing career flourishes and takes him away from home and to literary parties that Cathy doesn’t care for.
And as we watch we experience every tear dropped as one of our own. We empathise with every ounce of love lost. If this was a regular, linear narrative we would be hoping they sort their problems out, but we know how it ends. The Last Five Years is both sweet and sour but ultimately so, so sad.
For us it is a shame that they part. We see how much they love each other, and we don’t want life to get in the way for them. But it does. The feelings they once had for each other turn to shreds like the confetti that once rained down on them.
Jason Robert Brown’s songs are fantastic and all hit just the right notes for each scene. While one sings of their joy or their sadness the other accompanies them on the piano and becomes a part of that emotion.
The beautiful part about this is that most of the team that twice made it such a big success at Southwark Playhouse, pre and post pandemic, are back to enjoy the glory of this West End transfer.
These two actors, Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson, have taken to the West End stage like they have always been there. In front of a big band and big lights is where their talents should be, and it is wonderful to see them there.
Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HH until 17th October. Times: Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm; Thursday, Saturday & Sunday at 3pm. Admission: £21.50 – £62.50
Box Office: 0330 333 4811 – https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/the-last-five-years/
Photos: ©Helen Maybanks