I had the privilege of getting to see Second Stage Theatre's new production of THE LAST FIVE YEARS on Wednesday night, and it was one of the best theatrical performances I've ever seen.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS is the story of Jamie and Cathy's five year relationship, only they tell the story one song at a time, moving in opposite directions, only singing together in the middle at their wedding.
This production, directed by the show's composer Jason Robert Brown, was perfectly cast with Adam Kantor (Rent, Next to Normal) and Betsy Wolfe (Mystery of Edwin Drood, 35mm).
L5Y is one of my favorite musicals, so I have the original cast recording (starring Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Renee Scott) basically memorized, and was worried I'd be disappointed by this new production because of my love of the original. Boy was I wrong. I loved the different moments these actors found and the different choices that made it sound and feel like a different show.
What made this production great was the use of the sparse set and lighting, but using them at specific moments to help illustrate exactly what was going on. The set was almost entirely made up of a set of windows that moved up and down. Three of them had screens that served as setting in multiple numbers.
It was also interesting because Jason Robert Brown changed some lyrics and moments for this revival, which took me by surprise, but were very effective while minimal.
Wolfe and Kantor were both equally matched, both vocally and in acting ability. Both truthfully told Cathy and Jamie's story instead of just beautifully singing the song cycle. (There is almost no spoken text in the show). Highlights for me were Wolfe's "Summer in Ohio" and the Audition Sequence, and Kantor's "If I Didn't Believe in You."
I really hope that they record this production, because it is absolutely brilliant (it has already been extended twice before it has even officially opened). Check out this behind the scenes video!