The Last Five Years is the inaugral production for new Melbourne theatre company Tall Trees Productions. Composer and lyricist, Jason Robert Brown has been declared as “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim” (Philadelphia Inquirer.) The Last Five Years is currently performing in New York with a cast recording to be made of the production. Now Melbourne theatre lovers have the opportunity to see this cleverly written and poignant musical.
Based on the story of Brown's first marriage, The Last Five Years tells the story of the relationship between Cathy (Angela Harding) and Jamie (Luigi Lucente.) But what makes this story unique is the intriguing structure of the script, with Jamie telling the story from the first date to the end of the relationship while Cathy tells her story from the break up and works back to the start. Much of the story telling is told separately by two individuals, until their stories meet in a special moment of the relationship, before detouring off on their own again.
It's a huge change for Lucente, who has performed in Wicked and Jersey Boys. However, Lucente saw this role as the ultimate challenge for an actor to bring this story to life. His most recent role in the smaller scale production, Assassins, has helped prepare him for this more intimate work.
Lucente first saw The Last Five Years about six years ago when Matt Hetherington performed the role of Jamie. Lucente describes this as a very poignant and sophisticated piece of theatre. Because this is a minimalist work he says the actors are required to give so much to their performances.
Musically, there is a range of styles with some “Broadway moments” that will appeal to musical theatre fans. As a finalist of the Rob Guest Endowment Concert in 2011, and having understudied the roles of Fiyero (Wicked) and Bob Gaudio (Jersey Boys,) Lucente is an accomplished performer who is ready for the challenge of this leading role.
Playing opposite Lucente is Angela Harding. Although Harding has a background in musical theatre she has been touring her self penned cabaret show after winning the Australian National Cabaret Showcase in 2011. The rustic Treble Clef Jazz Lounge in Chirnside Park will provide a familiar sense of audience intimacy for Harding.
Harding describes The Last Five Years as a challenging show with a fascinating profoundness in the juxtaposition of seeing both ends of the relationship at the same time. Harding is a huge fan of songwriter Jason Robert Brown, having seen him in concert last year. She says the amazing music in this show has everything from rock to pop to soul and she jumped at the opportunity to be part of this production.
Both Lucente and Harding said the key to preparing for their roles was learning the songs exactly as they have been written. Every note and every lyric has been placed with intent and purpose and performing this work means understanding the way it has been written and remaining true to this.
This is a show that anyone who has ever been in a relationship will be able to relate to. It will appeal to people of all ages, but those in their twenties will clearly see themselves in the lives of Cathy and Jamie. In a city that regards itself as the theatre capital of Australia, there is definite place for this type of smaller scale boutique production amongst the big scale musicals. The Last Five Years is poignant show with heart and depth and is definitely worth experiencing.
Two short seasons have been scheduled for this production, with the show opening on Wednesday 26th June at the Treble Clef Jazz Lounge in Chirnside Park and the second season to run at Theatre Works in St Kilda in July.
Tickets are available at www.talltreesproductions.com