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.
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.