New York Daily News
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Two Come Apart At the Songs
R. Dominguez

 
THE LAST FIVE YEARS. Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.
With Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie René Scott. Directed by Daisy Prince.
At Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane. Tickets $20-$60. (212) 307-4100
 

Depending on who's telling or rather, singing the story, the last five years have been boom and bust for the married couple in composer Jason Robert Brown's beautifully rendered musical about a doomed relationship.

Unfolding almost entirely through song, "The Last Five Years" tells the anguished tale of self-absorbed Jamie (Norbert Leo Butz), a successful novelist, and loyal, lovelorn Cathy (Sherie René Scott), a struggling actress.

Brown, the Tony-winning composer and lyricist of the 1998 musical "Parade," structures the play as a series of alternating solos by Jamie and Cathy.

He also has added a clever premise reminiscent of the 2001 film "Memento" Cathy recalls the relationship from its sad finish to its hopeful start; Jamie simultaneously gives his side of it from beginning to end.

The dual and dueling narratives give an otherwise run-of-the-mill plot an added degree of heartbreak.

Brown, who leads an offstage six-piece band on piano, displays a wide range as a composer. The show's 16 songs move from mournful ballads, such as Cathy's haunting opener, "Still Hurting," to romantic schmaltz to several witty, uptempo tunes.

Displaying a strong voice, Scott especially shines on "Climbing Uphill," a funny song about Cathy's ordeal during a nerve-racking audition for a summer stock role.

Butz is also a solid singer, as his character evolves into a deceitful cad. He is most appealing on "A Miracle Would Happen," about Jamie's attempts to stay faithful while literary groupies throw themselves at him.

The life cycle of a tumultuous love affair is nicely conveyed by Beowulf Boritt's abstract set design. Propped at a right angle to the stage is a massive marble rotunda with empty chairs and flowers that suggests a wedding chapel. At the foot of the circle lies scattered, broken-down bedroom furniture symbolizing the couple's turmoil.

The time gimmick ultimately undermines the show's impact, however. While they often share the stage, Jamie and Cathy hardly ever interact or sing an actual duet. Though depicting the couple's emotional isolation, the approach never offers a sense of what drew them together in the first place.
 

E-mail: rdominguez@edit.nydailynews.com
 

Original Publication Date: 3/4/02
 
 
 

The Last Five Years