RICH, FULL, DEVASTATINGLY DELICIOUS
THE LAST FIVE YEARS
A contemporary song cycle
Written by JASON ROBERT BROWN
Directed by JENNIFER WARD-LEALAND
Musical direction by ROBIN KELLY
at Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland
From 1 Mar 2012 to 17 Mar 2012
Reviewed by Melisa Martin, 3 Mar 2012
Auckland's new kid on the block, Last Tapes Theatre Company, debuted with a bang on 1 March with Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last Five Years under the fine direction of Jennifer Ward-Lealand.
The emotional rollercoaster serves as a headstone for a marriage gone south, that could have been offered as a hollow memorial to ‘the honeymoon period', reminiscent of Jonathan Larson's Tick Tick BOOM.
Instead it emerges as a heart-grabbing tale of two people who never really seemed to be together at all.
This one-act show promises structural grace when we meet Cathy Hiatt, a somewhat unsuccessful musical actor, telling the story from its end – as she finds an abandoned wedding ring and a letter from her husband Jamie – backwards to their first date; a hopeful beginning.
Cherie Moore brings the character to life with delicate finesse, opening on an emotional high usually reached by building to it.
Tyran Parke as Jewish, up and coming novelist Jamie Wellerstein appears with a goofy grin on his face, as if he has just signed the deeds and become new owner of the world after their first date. We forgive his boyish excitement as soon as he begins his own opening number about his new-found ‘Shiksa Goddess', who he has been waiting for his entire life.
The musical was composed as a series of solo songs, compiled to tell the supposed autobiographical story of Brown's own failed marriage; which at times leaves me feeling sorry for Cathy as Jamie charms his way through witty repartees of a magical clock and the challenge of steering clear of beautiful women.
Moorewell and truly makes up for this with her doe-eyed, girl-next-door appeal made magical by the spine-tingling sound of her voice.
We are sucked into the story from Jamie's too-familiar argument – “We wouldn't have gotten this far, if I didn't believe in you and all of the ten thousand women you are” – Cathy's naïve rationalisation as her husband works: “And then he smiles, his eyes light and how can I complain? Yes he's insane, but look what he can do, and I'm a part of that.”
Uniting for only one duet in the middle of the show, Parke and Moore eradicate any doubt of chemistry in a simple wedding scene that the entire show seemingly revolves around. The cross-over during this scene could have been disjointed and hard to follow, but was instead blended beautifully in a whirlwind of perfect timing and hair-raising harmonies.
The pair carry the show admirably, supported by a three-piece band under the musical direction of pianist Robin Kelly who leads the musicians in never missing a beat during the 80-minute performance.
The awareness of time passing and the feeling of individual isolation, aided by its wonderfully minimal staging, enhances the story and adds an element that can't be observed, so much as felt.
If you could taste the superb performances of Parke and Moore, I think they would taste like the loveliest, creamiest chocolate dessert you've ever tried: rich, and full, and devastatingly delicious.
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