The New York Post

March 4, 2002 -- THE LAST 5 YEARS
At the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane.
Call Ticketmaster (212) 307-4100.

'THE Last 5 Years" consists of a song cycle sung, separately but occasionally together, by a young couple chronicling the rise and fall of their relationship and respective careers.

The young man is Jamie, acted and sung by Norbert Leo Butz (late of "Thou Shalt Not"), who's a novelist on the eve of success as the show starts. The young woman is Catherine - Sherie Rene Scott from "Aida" - who is beautiful and beautifully voiced.

Butz brings personality, pizazz and pathos to Jamie: He breaks his mother's heart by falling for Cathy in "Shiksa Goddess," worries about career and affair in "Moving Too Fast," and suffers the pangs of success and love.

Yet Jason Robert Brown - who wrote the music and lyrics for this play and for "Parade," the musical drama set in an anti-Semitic Atlanta in the 1920s - gives both players less than they deserve. While the lyrics are clever and occasionally sad, they never probe deeply; the music is glib and generic.

Cathy's songs aren't as convincing as Jamie's. She's a musical actress, going on humiliating auditions and doing summer stock in Ohio, and while there's some funny stuff here, we never really learn the sources of her discontent.

The marriage drifts apart, but we're not sure why. This is a musical mosaic of jangled, bitter and misunderstood emotions. Though attractively performed, it doesn't quite make sense.

The direction by Daisy Prince and the grotesque sets by Beowulf Boritt strand the pair amid such paraphernalia as a boat, a toy car and a Christmas tree with a Star of David on top. It's all ugly and distracting, yet Butz and Scott show us what sheer personality can accomplish, virtually on its own.

The Last Five Years