Aug. 23, 2002, 3:03PM
Brown's Tony-winning work
By EVERETT EVANS
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle
The Last 5 Years
(original off-Broadway cast recording)
Jason Robert Brown
Jason Robert Brown, Tony-winning composer/lyricist of Parade, cements his
reputation as one of the musical theater's brightest young writing talents
with this heartfelt chamber musical.
In contrast to Parade's period setting and operatic scale, The Last 5 Years
is an intimate, contemporary, highly personal piece portraying the joys and
heartaches of a young couple.
Jamie is a novelist finding his head turned by his first taste of success;
Cathy, an aspiring actress struggling to make a breakthrough, with little
Brown piques interest by placing the two on different time tracks.
Cathy's story begins at the end of the marriage, moving back in time to the
first meeting. Jamie's story follows the normal chronology, beginning with
the first date and ending with the breakup.
As their songs alternate (they meet in the middle, at the wedding), the format
allows unexpected juxtapositions, both funny and poignant.
Brown has a fresh, quirky musical style. While one occasionally wishes for
more conventionally "melodic" lines, several ballads, especially for the
more sensitive Cathy, have an aching beauty.
His lyrics convey emotion with intelligence and wry humor.
Still Hurting, A Part of That, I Can Do Better Than That and the closing
pair Goodbye Until Tomorrow and I Could Never Rescue You express complex
ideas with an authenticity rare outside of Stephen Sondheim.
The score benefits from the strong performances of Norbert Leo Butz (Thou
Shalt Not) and Sherie Rene Scott (Aida), both ideally cast. With Butz's dynamism
and charm and Scott's controlled intensity and sarcastic humor (especially
in her comic showstopper A Summer in Ohio), these two have the vocal skill
and personality to keep the characters sympathetic even when revealing less-than-attractive
With its true-to-life protagonists striving to make love last forever and
not quite making it, The Last 5 Years is the rare musical whose substance
is recognizable as something out of everyday life, albeit heightened in impact.
Small and mid-sized theater companies likely will ensure that this piece
finds its deserved place in the repertoire.
The Last Five Years