The Advertiser (www.theadvertiser.com.au)
Tuesday 24 June 2003
What a way to go...
The Last Night Concert
HAVING already left an indelible mark on this year's Adelaide Cabaret Festival
with two remarkable but very different shows, New York composer Jason Robert
Brown once again delivered the goods to bring this year's event to a rousing
Unlike his complete shows Songs for a New World and The Last Five Years,
the closing concert was a grab-bag of tunes from other assignments, ranging
from Tony Award-winning musicals to box office duds, from incidental music
reinterpreted for albums to songs which have never been recorded – and therefore
never before heard in Australia. Again, they demonstrated the amazing
diversity of his writing.
From his opening piano-and-vocal pleas to "Let the music begin" (Music of
Heaven) through the rambling, back-pedaling humour and boogie-woogie groove
of I Could Be In Love with Someone Like You, Brown comes across like the
Billy Joel of Broadway. His witty, savvy observations on human emotions
and relationship frailties struck a chord.
Brown's favourite foil, Broadway singer Lauren Kennedy, joined in mostly
on longing ballads and bittersweet duets, althought she got to have more
fun with the rollicking ragtime of Pretty Music from Parade and the gutsier
Dolly Parton-style twang of Mr Hopalong Heartbreak from the much-maligned
Brown, in turn, put his occasionally shaky, nasal upper registers to good
use on the fiddle-driven yokel strains of It Don't Get Better Than This.
One minute he's the king of croon, belting out the wickedly funny Grow Old
With Me over a Billy May-style swing arrangement, the next he's scatting
jazz-style over the brilliantly layered complexity of I'm in Bizness.
Gues vocalist Judi Connelli even returned to repeat her New World show-stopper,
The only dull point was an uncharacteristically dour introduction to two
more songs from Parade.
However, the show ended in rousing form with Brown's shell-shocked response
to September 11, Coming Together. While he expressed fear that, in
light of more recent world events, it may sound like propaganda, the bluesy
prayer built into a full-blown gospel rave and seemed an appropriately personal
yet universally optimistic note on which to end.
- Patrick McDonald
The Advertiser, Friday, 20 June 2003
"The Last Five Years"
Space Theatre, until tomorrow
In his personal and intimate musical The Last Five Years, Jason Robert Brown
takes the conventions of Broadway and sends them spinning into the 21st century.
A savvy New Yorker connected to the issues of big-city life, Brown uses his
wit and insight to tell a contemporary story about a couple falling in and
out of love.
While the music is superb, combining classic Broadway with funk and rock
and even some Jewish klezmer, it is Brown's refusal to sugar-coat his subject
that makes this show even in concert form such a success.
His ear for everyday speech and his ability to set it seamlessly to a rich
and complex score also are extraordinary. With the aid of a five-piece
backing band, Brown is a knockout singing and on piano as is
his co-star, singer Lauren Kennedy.
The Last Five Years