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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Last Five Years

I will not lose because you can't win. --- Jamie to Catherine

Jason Robert Brown's time games make this two-hander about the dissolution of a marriage more interesting than a straight chronological account but at the expense of a certain amount of empathy. The musical begins as the marriage ends for Catherine with a downer solo called "Still Hurting." It's quickly followed by its beginning in a hilarious up-beat solo, "Shiksa Goddess" by Jamie who burns with enthusiasm for the world, and the girls still before him. This brings the show to life and we continue to be absorbed by Jamie, even as he becomes a cynical cad.

The sung-through musical continues on parallel tracks with Catherine going towards the relationship's beginning and Jamie towards its end. They only converge once, in the mid-point marriage duet, "The Next Ten Minutes."

Brown's strength is lyrics which the graceful but forgettable music supports. His interest in the the dual time concept forces on his people are echoed in "The Schmuel Song" in which a talking clock chimes in on Jamie. Jamie, who becomes a successful novelist, is the character we know best. Although he blames aspiring actress Catherine's anemic career for their differences, it's obvious from the get-go that he's not really marriage material. There were all those girls he enumerates before he falls for his Shiksa Goddess and her appeal seemed to be largely ethnic. Right after the wedding his number, "A Miracle Would Happen" Jamie obsesses on all the girls he thinks find him attractive now that he is married. His "If I Didn't Believe In You" siki is tender, despite its exasperation, while Catherine's bitter references to "Jamieland" evoke no such empathy. Brown shows a sense of the mate of a successful writer in "I'm A Part Of That", in which Catherine desperately tries to believe that her name on the dedication page makes her a part of that.

David Tatar's charisma and musicality make Jamie an emotionally accessible character, whatever his faults and failings. One gets the feeling the writer doesn't know Catherine as well or like her as much. Misty Cotton's talents as singer and actress are well known not only in this community but throughout the musical world, and she certainly displays them here, yet she isn't able to do much with this generic blonde. Maybe the writer is making a point about marrying a goddess instead of a real person.

Nick DeGruccio directs with imagination, smooth transitions, and dramatic tension. Tom Buderwitz has provided a set of levels, paralleling the ups and downs of marriage, which are intuitively lit by Steven Young. Jean-Pierre Dorleac expresses colorful Gallic touches in Jamie's shirts which reflect the character's ebulliance and passion for fashion, while Catherine's simple sundresses portray her wholesome beauty. David O, who provided additional musical arrangements, musical direction, and piano accompaniment, is a triple threat in all three areas.

This production plays in rep with Tom Jones' and Harvey Schmidt's I Do! I Do! which offers a totally different era, marriage and musical style.

Editor's Note: The pairing with the Jones/Schmidt two-hander strikes me as perfect since that show prompted my opening comments when I reviewed the show at its Off-Broadway opening. To read that review, which also points out that Brown wrote this little musical after his own bitter divorce and which includes a complete song list go here.

Written and Composed by Jason Robert Brown
Director: Nick DeGruccio
Cast: Misty Cotton (Catherine), David Tatar (Jamie).
Set Design: Tom Buderwitz
Lighting Design: Steven Young
Costume Design: Jean-Pierre Dorleac
Sound Design: Frederick W. Boot
Musical Direction and Addition Arrangements: Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Running Dates: June 30-August 6, 2006
Where:..The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, Reservations: (626) 356-PLAY
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on July 13.

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