How does the following scenario sound for a way to spend a hot summer evening?
You sit among friends in a cool, comfortable room, sipping a cocktail or a glass of wine, listening to beautiful music and watching an attractive young couple sing with all their hearts about the story of their romance.
No, it’s not a New York supper club; it’s a theatre right here in Trinidad and you are present at the second amazing show of the SCRT summer season: Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years.
You might think you were in a Broadway house, however, by noting the fine quality of this excellent production.
Some people say Brown was writing this Musical about his own love affair. But whether or not this is true, this story about love and loss is repeated in real life every day all over the world —just not customarily in the form of song.
In his long career as a renowned composer and playwright, Jason Robert Brown has sometimes delved into disturbing subjects; such as in his towering work Parade, during which he addresses past bigotry in the deep South and actually hangs the main character, allowing him to die gruesomely on stage.
When retreating to such an everyday subject as romantic relationships in The Last Five Years however, Brown contrives an unusual time line to add interest to the placid structure of the Musical.
A young actress, Cathy, meets and falls in love with an aspiring young writer, Jamie. This is the beginning of the story as far as Jamie is concerned; however Cathy retells the saga of their life together backwards in time, from the relationship’s ending to its beginning. As his career flourishes, hers loses steam. Beautiful lyrics and melodies carry the saga through their years together, sung and acted by two wonderful SCRT performers, Whitney Noelle and Johnny Link.
The Director of this elegant production, James Bruenger III, with Scenic and Lighting Designer G. Austin Allen, have found an ingenious way for the audience to navigate the time line differences to fully appreciate the story. (Spoiler alert: it’s part of the set: an electronic sign that shows the date while each number is sung.)
The set itself is a clever wall of box-like structures, each of which holds a memento of Cathy and Jamie’s lives, a matrix encompassing the whole of themselves and their relationship.
Regarding the technical aspects of the Musical: Austin Allen’s Lighting is effectively used to separate the two characters when they are on stage together, but not present in each other’s moment of the story.
Since the story line reached over the span of five years, different costumes were necessary for each scene. Costume Designer Nicole M. Harrison provided clothing that was attractive and appropriate for each of the yearly vignettes.
Praise also goes to the remaining technical cadre: Lizzy Gordon, Production Stage Manager, and Nathan Segers, Technical Director.
Additionally, special congratulations should be accorded to the two stars, who, under the supervision of Music Director Jacob Stebly, not only acted out the lyrics of this tuneful show, but sang them faultlessly in beautiful voices filling the entire room with superb sound.
Opening Night was Friday, July 12. After its first weekend of performances, The Last Five Years will again be presented Saturday July 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 21 at 2 p.m. matinee.
Subsequent to the Opening of the third SCRT show The 39 Steps, on Friday, July 26 and 27, The Last Five Years will again be performed on July 28, and August 4, 9, and 17.