The Last Five Years, Lineage Performing Arts Center

I have a confession. I love the film version of The Last Five Years. When it comes to Jeremy Jordan I am just so weak and his Jamie will probably forever be my favorite and I challenge anyone to dethrone him.

That being said, I was really excited about The Lineage Performing Arts Center production of this as they incorporated dance into the staging. The two dancers, Michelle Kolb and Christopher Jones, represent the inner life of Cathy and Jamie in a way that reminds me of when I saw Deaf West’s Spring Awakening where the speaking voices were in many ways visual representations of their souls. It enriches the story brought to life by the music of Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Bridges of Madison County) by highlighting the emotion and digging deeper into the psyche of both characters.

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Photo courtesy of Pasadena Now

At first, I actually wasn’t convinced that the dancers were the most beneficial to the production. In many ways I was distracted from the other performers and found myself far more focused on their movement than on the songs I’ve come to love so much but there were some instances where the dancers and the actors fell perfectly into sync with one another to elevate the show — particularly “The Schmuel Song” and “Climbing Uphill.” It struck me as odd though that during one of the show’s most pivotal songs, “Nobody Needs to Know” Christopher Jones was notably absent. Of all the songs where we could use a new perspective on Jamie’s character this felt like the perfect moment.

If you’re not familiar with The Last Five Years, this normally two-man show, explores the destruction of a five year relationship between Cathy, an aspiring actress, and Jamie, an up and coming novelist. She tells her story from the end of the relationship while he tells his story from the beginning and they meet only once in the middle at their wedding. Before I knew anything about this musical I remember listening to the cast album and being so utterly lost with what was happening. This particular production underscored the time differences by projecting what year each song took place in to make the distinction between their stories all the more clear. 

Starring as Cathy and Jamie are married couple, Marisa Echevarria (Pure Genius, The Mentalist, Southland) and Paul Siemins. Siemins, in my opinion, outshines his counterpart. Like Jamie he is full of charm and his stage presence is captivating. His Jamie seems to stay at this singular level until that fateful song “Nobody Needs to Know.” It’s possible Siemins plays Jamie at this constant as though he were trying to convince the audience of his innocence in the whole matter but his renditions of Jamie’s classic songs were really strong.

I felt almost the opposite about Echevarria’s portrayal of Cathy. I found myself wanting more from her during Cathy’s songs but really loved her overall portrayal of Cathy. When we first meet Cathy she seems hollow, dispirited, and broken but as the musical moves along you see Cathy come to life and it’s really tragic to think about how Jamie has destroyed her in so many ways.  Cathy’s part in ending the musical is pretty clearly evident – you start see her as a jealous girlfriend who at times really seems to feel she has been left behind by Jamie and his newfound fame.

I love this show a lot but was not in love with this particular production. Adding dance was a really interesting element but at times it seemed to overshadow the performances of Echevarria and Siemins.  I did catch the final performance on Sunday, June 18th on a spur of the moment decision after seeing tickets on Goldstar for only $12.50 before taxes. If you’re interested in dance keep your eye on this theater, it might hold a lot of treasures for you.

Legally Blonde, Cupcake Theater

I have to start this review off by saying the Cupcake Theater is my absolute favorite local theater. I have seen nearly every production they have put on since moving to their new North Hollywood location. This venue is so intimate and jam-packed with talent and these productions are not to be missed. 

I saw Legally Blonde on opening night, June 16th.  The best thing this production  has going for it is the superb casting. A huge shoutout to Arri Leigh who stars as Elle Woods. She is charming, idealistic, and captures the purity of Elle while also making herself a fierce force on stage. You never doubt she will do whatever it takes to succeed and get things done. I also have to give some love to Kristen Pickrell who stars as Paulette and really brings the sass and love to the stage befitting this character. Combined with Arri and the other lovely ladies, they turn out a wonderful rendition of “Bend and Snap.”

One of the things I love most about this show is its theme of empowerment. The amount of incredibly strong and diverse women on the Cupcake Theater stage is staggering and they are always there for each other and are truly the backbone of this production. Legally Blonde is a great production to show your daughters or bring your squad to and celebrate all of the awesome things ladies can do when they stick together.

This show is also so fun! Featuring some great jams like “Ohmigod You Guys,” “There! Right there,” and “Whipped into Shape” which is a wildly impressive jumprope number that is such a truly magnificent way to jump into the second act. I have to give a couple more shoutouts to Rehyan Rivera who made his choreography debut with this show and Thomas Adoue Polk who made his directorial debut. You guys have created a really great show and I can’t wait to see it again. 

You can currently get tickets from the Cupcake Theater website or from Goldstar. If you can afford more expensive tickets please make that investment as these ticket sales do fund the productions and make it possible to create such wonderful experiences. I also recommend taking Lyft to the show as there’s not that much parking nearby.

Seats are not assigned at the Cupcake so make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes early to get a high number and have your pick of the seats in the house. There’s not really a bad seat since the venue is so intimate but while you’re waiting you can also enjoy a signature watermelon mojito. They are to die for and I almost always get one when I come to a show. Plus, you never know who will be bartending that night. Members of the Cupcake Theater family are usually behind the counter helping out so say hi and chat with them and continue to support this great place!

As of this writing, tickets on Goldstar are running between $20-$50 before taxes. The show will run at least through August and plays Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.