CDNOW Review
The Last 5 Years
June 18, 2002

Jason Robert Brown's status as one of the most gifted songwriters in musical theater -- his Parade won the 1999 Tony Award for best musical score -- can only be enhanced by this recording of The Last Five Years, which played at the Off-Broadway Minetta Lane Theater in 2002. Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott star as, respectively, Jamie and Cathy, whose courtship and doomed marriage is depicted by each partner, moving in opposite directions through time.
Scott opens the show in heartbreaking, intense style with "Still Hurting," a rhapsodic torch number, embellished with neoclassical touches from a string trio. (It's followed up by the heartbreaking, lilting lament "See I'm Smiling.") Scott grows ebullient on "A Summer in Ohio," in which her character sings of being an actress stranded in a Nowheresville regional theater, as well as "Climbing Uphill," a frantic declamation of pressures and self-doubts.

Butz opens with the comic "Shiksa Goddess," which, despite an Allan Sherman-reminiscent scenario of "nice Jewish boyhood," turns into a bracing pop theme on a fluid, modified Afro-Cuban montuno figure. The gospel-pop number "Moving too Fast" shows Butz' character Jamie trying to assess the intoxication of early success -- with a funky piano solo from Brown himself.

Scott and Butz, who rarely duet, join on glowing theme "The Next Ten Minutes," set to an undercurrent of undulating strings, and also on closing number "Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You," in which a first-date "goodbye" that's really a hello crosses paths with a broken-marriage "goodbye" that's really a farewell.

At a time when Broadway is dominated by revivals and movie re-treads, Jason Robert Brown has crafted an artful and extraordinary work of musical theater with The Last Five Years -- one that bodes well for his blossoming talent.

Drew Wheeler
CDNOW Senior Editor, Cast Recordings

The Last Five Years