The Last Five Years

Ignatians Musical Society at The Cremorne Theatre, QPAC in Brisbane

“And in a perfect world a miracle would happen and that day would finally here.”

A love story told separately. The boy tells it from the beginning and the girl tells it from the ending. As she says goodbye from their first date, he says goodbye forever.

As previously stated I am a big Jason Robert Brown fan, my favourite being this show. This could possibly have something to do with the fact I was introduced to it right on the verge of a big break-up but I’ve continued to find the songs have great resonance. So when my favourite little theatre company announces a production, I turn up on opening night with a tissue in hand ready to become completely absorbed into the emotions on-stage. I am usually impressed by the quality of performers in Ignatians productions and there are only two actors in the whole performance so it would be difficult to make a bad casting choice. Difficult but apparently not impossible. I sat in the audience waiting for the music and lyrics of Cathy’s heartbreak to set me blubbering, as the recorded version has prone to making me do. Far from being absorbed, I was too concerned with the whiney voice that couldn’t quite reach half the notes. It’s all very well to be on the verge of tears during a sad number but if you overact and have a lump in your throat, you cannot sing. So the casting of Cathy was wrong but surely I could still enjoy all of Jamie’s songs? In walks Jamie smiling singing missing all the comedy and joy in the song. Smiling was literally the only thing the actor did to indicate the character was happy. Cathy’s next song incorporated over-enthusiastic hand gestures. There was no improvement and I was just preparing myself for a complete disappointment when it suddenly improved. ‘I’m a part of that’ actually used subtly, something that had been missing from the performance until that point. Not having to hold back tears, she also managed to hit some notes. Then Jamie hit back with some brilliant story telling in ‘The Shmaule Song’ where his soft voice didn’t matter. So I was no longer dissatisfied with the production but I was yet to be impressed. The previously puny voice of Cathy belted enough to fill the theatre in ‘Climbing Uphill’, after everyone had stopped laughing at Jamie’s ‘A Miracle Would Happen.’ Even more impressive was the acting skills that came out of nowhere in ‘If I Didn’t Believe in You.’ The character we had only see smile and occasionally act charming was suddenly forceful and you could feel the tension even though he was technically arguing with no one.

While I’ve taken the time to moan about the cast, I haven’t been able to talk about the cute set which was mainly stacks of books, considering Jamie’s success as a writer was a factor in their break-up it’s quite fitting. This is an amazing piece of work but very difficult to make original, or sing in the case of most performers. If you haven’t heard the cast recording of professionals then you’d probably have far less faults. In fact you’d probably just be so taken in with the work itself the actors wouldn’t bother you.

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